Sunday, May 17, 2015

Spaced out, Igniting Swallows or My CIPD L&D Show 2015 Experience

Rachel Burnham writes: Everyone has their own story to tell, their own set of experiences from participating in an event like the CIPD L&D Show, which took place this week at Olympia.  The L&D Show includes a conference, exhibition, free events during the day and fringe events – so it is possible to participate in one of these events and have a completely different experience from a colleague depending upon which sessions you attended, which conversations you participated in, which tweets you read and of course upon your own mindset.   

As for me, I had a really good L&D Show – this year I didn’t go to the conference, but was out and about around the exhibition and in the free sessions.   And the sessions I participated in were amongst the very best I have experienced at this sort of event.   I felt that the sessions I participated in both contained great content and were delivered in engaging ways, with not too much sales pitch.  

One of the first sessions I got involved in was titled ‘Learning Science for Blended Learning’ and was from @iManage.   It focused on introducing us to three areas of research findings about how to make learning more effective:

·       The learning environment
·       Spacing out learning
·       Interleaving learning topics

Each topic was introduced and research shared.  We were then encouraged to discuss our ideas for applying this practically with our neighbours and tweet our ideas to the presenter.   Relevant content, delivered in a lively and thought-provoking manner that helped us to digest it & consider how to use it.

A number of sessions focused on the development needs of our own profession, to enable us to be effective in meeting the challenges facing our organisations.   Each of these sessions referred back to the recent report produced jointly by CIPD and the benchmarking organisation Towards Maturity ‘L&D: Evolving Roles, EnhancingSkills’ which sets out very clearly that many of us in L&D have been neglecting our development.  There is an urgent need to particularly develop:

  • Business & commercial understanding of our own organisation;

  • Skills in facilitation of social learning;

  • Digital skills; 
  • Performance consulting; and

  • Analytical skills.

One of the highlights of the free programme of sessions were the two ‘Ignite Labs’ that took place – one on each day of the event.  Each session involved a series of short presentations – 5 minutes in length from a range of L&D practitioners, each supported by 20 slides timed to change at 15 second intervals.  Such a challenge!   The topics included a great variety of topics from: changing the approach to L&D in an organisation, practical examples, appreciation, a dialogue approach to change management, the importance of digital skills, improving the blood transfusion service in Uganda and moving from lurking to learning on Twitter.  I particularly valued Jonathon Marshall’s session on changing approaches to L&D at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the insight that ‘L&D needs to get off the stage, but not leave the room’.

Other interesting sessions included exploring the value of volunteering as a learning experience, something which CIPD has been encouraging through the Steps Ahead Mentoring scheme and links with   There are win-win-wins to be gained here for the employee doing the volunteering, for the organisation in terms of the impact of the learning & engagement and for the community benefitting.  

It was good to hear Andy Lancaster, Head of L&D for CIPD talking about the ‘Leaders in Learning’ Network which has been running for about a year in London and which is now beginning to regionalise.   This brings together people in L&D to network, discuss great practice and case studies, talk technology, share research and problem-solve together.  These evening sessions about 4 times a year are very interactive and are highly valued by those who participate.  Meetings have recently been held in Scotland, East Anglia and future meetings will also be taking place in Manchester for the North West.

One of the very last sessions, I participated in focused on ‘storytelling’ and was led by the Royal Central School for Speech and Drama.  This session explored why story telling is so important to us and how we can use it to aid learning in our organisations.  Early on in the session we were invited to remember a favourite book from our childhood and to think about why it had had such an impact on us – my choice was ‘Swallows and Amazons’ by Arthur Ransome – it is full of strong female characters, each individual and distinctive – apparently based upon the author’s own sisters.   The session considered different ways of using story telling and was full of inspiration for me – I know I don’t use story telling as much as I might.

My overall impressions of the event - I have come away with lots of ‘I could try that’ and ‘I’d like to find out more about that’.  Were the ideas shared in the event brand new? Probably not, but there was lots to learn, adapt and provoke thought & action for any L&D professional. And that is good enough for me.

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals become even more effective.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance.

Follow me on Twitter @BurnhamLandD

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