As you look for ways to develop your personal learning network, don’t overlook small learning and development conferences and events. In the past few years, these small conferences have been sprouting up all over the world. Due to the pandemic, some of these in-person conferences moved online and others canceled for a year or two. Many will be back in person in 2022.
Although larger events have many advantages, small conferences can provide unique opportunities that you may not find at larger ones. Due to the intimate environment, attendees may feel more relaxed and more likely to converse with each other and the speakers. Also, small conferences may be able to innovate because of their size. They are usually less expensive to attend, often run for a shorter time, and regional ones reduce the expense of travel.
So, here is a list of established small conferences. Many attract 100-150 attendees, though some are larger. Also, most of the events listed here have been around for more than one year. I hope this list provides new learning and sharing opportunities for you.
The Canadian eLearning Conference or EaCH has its roots in a collaborative group of eLearning healthcare peers who began meeting in 2005 to share materials and ideas on eLearning design and technologies. Their passion to collaborate expanded to widening circles and they hosted their first conference in 2010.
In recent years, the conference grew far beyond the healthcare setting to become the Canadian eLearning Conference. It is a two-day conference that includes workshops, concurrent sessions, vendor displays, and opportunities for participants to showcase their work. The event averages around 130 attendees in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere, offering the opportunity for conversations, getting questions answered, and gaining knowledge that can be immediately applied to work. Location: Toronto.
This Chicago-based conference has been running since 2008. There is a full day of presentations and networking, with “an emphasis on the role of technology and interactive methods in organizational training.” The focus is on all aspects of eLearning—instructional design, production tools, media resources, virtual classrooms, social and interactive applications, mobile learning, rapid eLearning, and more. Location: Chicago.
CORE4 events are smaller two-day conferences put on by ATD every year in varied locations in the US and Canada. As a previous speaker, I can vouch for the quality of their programs and the intimacy of the event. The conferences focus on the essential skills and concepts that Learning and Development professionals need on the job. Locations: Various cities in US and Canada.
ELF is the only international conference in Poland dedicated to digital learning. This one-day event located in Warsaw focuses on new technology, skills development and digital learning ecosystems. It hosts international and local speakers. The main focus changes slightly year to year. In 2018, the event focused on the future of eLearning in the rapidly changing environment of work. However, each year the conference covers topics connected with designing effective eLearning solutions, such as using the latest technologies for eLearning. The conference includes presentations, case studies and panel discussions, as well as planned opportunities to network. Approximately 250 people attend the conference. Location: Warsaw.
This conference, hosted by the eLearning Brothers, is co-located with LearningDev Camp in Salt Lake City, UT. ELBX is the first day of the conference. Attendees can purchase single day passes just for eLBX or the full DevCamp (see below), which includes eLBX. The event offers a full day of workshops, presentations, networking with peers, and a sneak peak of new products coming down the line. If you are a fan of the eLearning Brothers style, expect more of this at ELBX. Location: Salt Lake City.
This conference is hosted by BottomLine Performance. It includes a variety of formats: presentation, workshop and panel discussion. The website states, “eXLearn is ideal for L&D and training professionals who want to create excellent learner experiences and business leaders who seek better results from their workplace learning initiatives. But any employee in your training department would walk away from eXLearn with useful information to start implementing at their organization right away.” Location: Indianapolis.
This is a small one-day event in Sydney for learning professionals. The conference focuses on strategies “for growing and scaling learning design projects successfully and generating significant ROI for clients and stakeholders.” Location: Sydney.
ISPI is a professional association that serves academic and Learning and Development professionals who research and apply evidence-based human performance improvement in the workplace. In addition to its larger conference, ISPI has smaller conferences in the U.S. and Europe every year on a specific theme, such as storytelling or the future of work. There is a Summer Institute with around 60 attendees and a Fall Symposium with around 125 attendees. The European conference, ISPI-EMEA, offers a unique interactive experience with around 125 attendees. Check the ISPI website for conference details. Locations: Various cities in US and Europe.
Located in Ghent, Belgium, this is a small one-day conference with a pre-conference workshop and is organized by Mathias Vermeulen. The 100 or so attendees are treated to international speakers, local experts and an inspiring location. It is the only conference in Belgium that focuses on learning technologies, with an emphasis on cutting-edge technology and best practices. Location: Ghent.
A regional conference held in Seattle, WA, Learnapalooza bills itself as a learning and development innovation and disruption conference. Attendees can engage in Speed Learning, which are six rounds of small group interactions with a presenter who is a SME in the topic area. They can also participate in a facilitated conversation (Conversation Corner) and two maker labs, a collaborative space for making, learning, exploring and sharing. Location: Seattle.
LearningDevCamp is a multi-day event that serves a community of experienced learning developers who love to collaborate and learn. It is a low-cost event that includes all meals and affordable onsite hotel accommodations. The university setting not only focuses the event on learning, but enables the hosts to offer a valuable experience with less expense. Location: Salt Lake City, UT.
LearnX Live is a rapid-fire one-day conference that “packs a punch like no other event on the planet.” The focus is on talks that expand the perspective of the L&D community. The event strives to be innovative and engaging. LearnXLive is another affordable conference for learning professionals. Location: Melbourne.
This is a smaller two-day learning and technology conference in New Zealand. It has a unique lineup of international speakers. Each year, the conference focuses on a different theme. For example, Maximizing Business Impact was a previous theme. The event also offers a day of post-conference workshops. Location: Auckland.
(Use the link above and scroll down to find the conference for current year)
Known for putting on some of the best and largest conferences for learning professionals, the eLearning Guild hosts a smaller event known as Realities360. Located in San Jose, CA, this is a three-day conference that focuses on immersive and alternative realities. The program includes impressive sessions on virtual reality, augmented reality and simulations. The conference is billed as a hands-on approach for helping people explore and create the future in a practical way. Location: San Jose.
This regional one-day conference is sponsored by the Dallas chapter of ATD. The focus is on sharing new ideas and resources, networking and building expertise for learning and development in the workplace. Around 400+ people attend. Some topics covered in years past include: talent management, organizational development, innovative learning solutions and managing learning programs and teams. Location: Plano, Texas.
The Download looks like a conference, but it’s more like an event. Learning professionals gather for a day and they run several really short, concurrent discussions on a wide range of L&D topics. Facilitators share and engage in unscripted Q&A sessions. Participants choose their topics of interest and get involved in discussions. Location: Chelsea, Michigan.
This conference brings together researchers and practitioners from around the world who work in online learning and related areas into a single conference of around 100 participants. The focus is on workplace learning and professional development. Researchers may gain exposure to practitioners facing real-world problems, and practitioners are exposed to theories and studies in areas related to online learning.
Presenters and attendees at past ICELW conferences (the previous name) have come from nearly 50 countries and with a variety of backgrounds, including corporate training, researchers, eLearning industry consultants and providers, HR leaders, chief learning officers and chief information officers. Location: Columbia University, New York.
If you’re looking for a heightened experience, more networking, and less commotion, consider attending one of these small learning and development events. I recommend them!