Last week, I attended TK 2012 in Las Vegas. This was my third TK in a row to attend, and as usual it contained some WOW on the part of some products, some “huh” on others and even a few “boos”.

Overall Expo Analysis

Good

  • Nice selection of vendors – in general
  • More goodies then in the past, but the vendor with the awesome monkeys – it was nearly impossible to get one – you had a better chance of allowing them to stick leeches on you, then getting one – what’s the point of marketing – if the product you want to show – yours – isn’t walking the floor with folks
  • More vendors showing off their products then in the past – still a couple believe that a poster board will do the trick
  • Significant increase in custom development shops – the most I have seen ever at TK12
  • Wi-Fi worked a lot better, but vendors and end users still had issues inside the expo hall

Average

  • Some vendors still required people to call to set up a trial, even though you were physically looking at them
  • Some booths had too many salespeople in relation to the size of the booth, it felt cramped and in some cases easily could scare off potential leads – worse, I saw many salespeople chatting amongst themselves rather than customers
  • Less vendors scanning people’s ID badges, which I found interesting. A couple of vendors used their iPhones to scan, which I thought was clever
  • Heavy traffic in the morning, but by lunch- nearly dead on the 1st day, and stayed that way throughout the rest of the day – small pick up, the 2nd day – again solid traffic in the morning, dropped by 11ish or so
  • Some vendors reported good lead gen – interest – will be interesting to see how many actually closed when it is all said and done

Poor

  • One vendor, and they shall not be mentioned, had the event staff come over and complain to them because they were not always at their booth – I took an awesome photo of them “not being” there on the first day at 12:30. On the second day, people were waiting in a line in the morning to get their “stamp” on their “cards” and no one was there – classic.
  • The “stamp” cards. I personally hate those things. You get this card, go around and have the vendors involved stamp it for a chance to win a drawing. Many vendors dislike it, especially when some folks will get in front of someone actually interested in the product and talking to the salesperson, just to get their stamp.  I heard this happen to two vendors.
  • Worst booth: Meridan.  It was drab, had poster board things up and screamed “Avoid me”.  This space would have rocked if it was 1996, but it isn’t 1996 anymore.
  • No free sandwiches, let along box lunches to attendees in the expo on day one. I’m sorry but there are hundreds of shows in various industries that give people this – at no additional charge. For the price of $1,500 or so to attend (non-member), and even near 1K to attend as a member, at least provide something, rather then free ice cream at 3 p.m.  Many vendors complained that folks were not coming in at the 12ish hour because they had to go and buy their own lunch elsewhere at the Rio (which is way off the strip).
  • I also heard from many folks attending that the lines to get something to eat, in some cases took them 45 min to get food. No wonder, the vendors never saw them.
  • No geolocation for people’s iphones. Again, what is the point of the map, if you still can’t find the vendors.
  • Surprised at the low number of LMS vendors here. Really shocking.  This is the one show where you see a lot of decision makers walking around.  This isn’t the case with lots of other shows. I tell my vendor clients – this is a must show to attend, compared to some others out there.
  • Custom development shops coming up with all sorts of names for what they actually do. I love marketing, but if people can’t figure out immediately what you do and you have to explain it, really what good is it?
  • Zero web conferencing vendors – I guess business is booming for you – the economy clearly is not playing a factor.

Product Time

This year, I looked at more products then before, and listened to more sales pitches then before – which is always a mixed bag.

Commercial Time

I was surprised at the number of vendors offering a blended product – with ILT as more of the focus then their WBT counterpart.  One was intriguing, but overall, seems to be a backward concept not forward.

Yowsa Product

These were a few vendors that made me say interesting and real potential.  A couple just took me back a few steps in a positive way.

Panopto – this was the best product I saw – really a WOW

Scored high marks for me. Really liked what I saw, while be taking a major drive on the product early next week.

Cool Features

  • Enables video to be recorded and guess what – SCORM compliant – finally!
  • After video recording, you can search by keyword and it goes right to the video that the person says the keyword. Plus you can also see it with the text transcript that is viewable in real time
  • Offers two products – one is a stand alone platform, the other is a stand alone product – you can integrate the video into your own LMS/learning Platform
  • SaaS based
  • You can remix, edit and combine material from different presentations or existing Podcasts by adding other rich media – this is the Unison product
  • For PPT lovers, you can synch video files with PPT with drag and drop
  • With Unison you can integrate right into their other product – the platform called Focus  – which provides video capture – oh, output includes mp3, mp4, avi, wav and mov
  • Works on mobile devices, incl. the iPad – looked sharp
  • Force: was equally very nice

Other Interesting Products (for various reasons)

Webucator

This is one of those blended learning solutions, I previously noted. While there were some things that made me think, uh oh, for the most part it has potential – especially in the education/academia space – for the online components, not ILT.

Albeit, they are see themselves in the corporate market.

The reason I say education/academia more so – is that it is geared towards synchronous based learning, which is used more than 95% in education/academia space.

Key Features:

  • Ability to view in real time an instructor presenting a course via video, while the attendees are elsewhere. Think the old way of distance learning – with everyone shoved in one room, and the instructor somewhere else.  The downside to this feature is that people have to be online at that specific time to see the “class” “presentation”, thus it sort of defeats the whole anytime/anywhere angle. However, for K-12 and even some higher ed institutions I can see it being used.
  • Ability to record presentations, video and people can view it at anytime – thus it is a flip off the one above – people do not have to be online at that exact moment to view it
  • You also can purchase instructor led courses from Microsoft to Adobe to Hardware and OS, programming, etc. Thus you can have on-site training.
  • They note that they have trained more than 70% of the Fortune 100, but I would surmise it is the on-site angle.

BrainShark

I’ll be honest here, this has never been one of my super favorite products, because  its whole premise is built on using PowerPoint. Simple yes, true WBT wow – no.

What really threw me for a loop was that they themselves have no idea what they really are when it comes to their product.

They are an online authoring system. They denied that to me, but after they gave me what the product did – I can state unequivocally that they are an online authoring system.

Here is my conversation with their sales person.

Him: “We are a content management, content development product”

Me: “So you are an online authoring system”

Him: “No. We also provide some reports and some analytics”

Me: “Okay, you are an online authoring system”

Him: “No. You can upload courses into our system”

Me:”Can you upload any 3rd party courses or does it have to be only your product?

Him: “Only ours”

Me: “Okay, you can create your courses with your SaaS tool, upload them into your system – and only your courses built with Brainshark, you have some reports and analytics.”

Him: “Right”

Me: “You are an online authoring system”

SlideShark

Brainshark’s new product which they pitch is 100% free. It enables you to upload PPT onto the iPad and present it to people – on the floor, at a location, etc. You can also connect the iPad PPT to a monitor and show it there.  You are still able to add video clips, audio, etc. – anything you can do with PPT, but it is seen on the iPad.

They told me, that you cannot do this right now with any other other app, because you know that PPT does not work on the iPad.

Let you in on a little secret. It is 100% bogus.

There are dozens and dozens of apps for free that enables PPT on the iPad, and does the same things.  If you want to buy a robust app that can do more, including showing in real time the web – with web links you can.

Their salesperson told me that in order to view web sites, you can have to screen capture them ahead of time, and upload it into their product – i.e. you cannot visit in real time.

What disturbed me the most about their claim is that they are telling anyway who walked into their booth regarding PPT and the iPad. Unless you are aware that PPT can work on the iPad, you will believe their claims.

Another example of some vendors who remind me of the snake oil salesman of the wild west. “This elixer will cure baldness, the common cold and make you smile”.

ZebraApps

Seen it. Nothing that blew me away.

Yammer

Yes they offer some features for free, but the paid version looks exactly like any other social learning system that uses the FB like page.

I had a great conversation with them and after their pitch, explained in detail that this many systems do the same thing, if not a tad more then they do. They stressed it provides analytics and is secure.

Guess what? There are plenty of LMSs that offer the same thing – in fact, secure is a huge factor.

You can add various APIs to it, and it has some Yammer add-ons from other vendors, but why go through the hassle, when some LMS vendors take it to the next level.

I know why people love Yammer, but its fee based product is not super low cost.

Right now until they make some wowsa factors in it, it is in my “not recommend” section.

Bottom Line

ASTD TK12 had a lot of nuances that offered nearly something for everyone. Yet, for the number of cool e-learning products out there and very hip and going places vendors (some of which were in attendance), many were not.

Online authoring systems were few and far between (domiKnow was there). Content authoring tool vendors equally not over abundent (Rapid Intake, Allen Communications, Articulate, Adobe were there among a few others).

LMS vendors surprised how many didn’t show up. Especially from outside the U.S.

Assessment tool vendors – Questionmark was there, can’t recall anyone else. The usual makes no sense – “Soundview” were also in attendance.

Excluding niche shows – depending as a vendor whom you are targeting – TechKnowledge is the best show to attend.

ASTD International is nice, but you get everyone there, not just e-learning. Other shows are best suited for specific types of vendors in the space.

TK12 offered some highlights and low-lights.

Hopefully next year, it will only be highlights.

Otherwise, it will falter like so many others in our space. Lots of traffic, little sales.

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