World of Learning Conference Review

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There is a saying here in the United States, in reference to the days of miners seeking fame – “There is gold in them (sic) hills”.

For a few such miners a fortune soon came, while others received only rocks, bad tasting beverages and doctors who used whiskey as an antiseptic.

Thankfully those days are gone sort of.

Because those who were fortunate to attend the World of Learning Conference, everywhere they looked was a nugget of gold, especially those who used the dynamite technique of e-learning.

Breakdown of the Show

I can’t speak for the seminars, well, I can speak of mine – and the feedback I heard was that a lot of folks really liked them. I have never had so many people stop in on the floor, thanking me and telling me how much information they received that will be useful. 

As for the seminars, I admit I did not attend them, but I did see loads of folks listening to the bonus presentations on the show floor.

Yeah many shows get folks to attend these bonus presentations, but at other shows they are often just a pitch and sell workshop under the guise of some topic. 

While I am sure that occurred at WOLC, the ones I gazed at, which were presented by vendors, had no sales pitch whatsoever, rather it was all about a specific subject tied to e-learning.  To me that was impressive.



  • Super potential, the show has always been ILT (which is still extremely popular in the UK), but there were LMS vendors there and a couple of e-learning, m-learning tools
  • Decision makers at the show – I go to a lot of trade shows around the world, and I can honestly tell you, I haven’t seen this many high level decision makers since my days at ASAE  (American Society of Association Executives).  I saw one list that had over three pages of key decision makers – you know the ones any vendor would droll over – walking the floor which led to..
  • A lot of talks of showing product, discussing deals, scheduling future meetings.  I know a few vendors who had multiple meetings each day with potential clients – and the ones I am referring to where LMS vendors.  Uh who were they talking to? Right, those same decision makers.  Heck, one vendor I know even landed a massive deal right there at the show.  Any vendor will tell you that a trade show is all about being seen, striking quick deals is extremely rare.
  • Well organized show – I won’t mention names but there is a certain association here in the US who could learn a few things on how to do a great show, from super fast Wi-Fi, to providing all attendees with a hot buffet, plenty of places to get coffee (non of which are named Starbucks),  effective processes for getting people their badges and so on…
  • Exhibitors from all over Europe, some of which had US offices
  • Their exhibit bags were not shoved with uber amounts of vendor ads. As someone who has been an attendee in the past, I thank you.   Most folks just toss that stuff in the trash, and when you think about it; isn’t it about time we focused more on saving paper i.e. the trees, then spending time tossing slick ad docs into a bag?
  • Networking event right after the show on the floor for vendors, speakers and platinum attendees, another genius move to connect vendors with attendees – platinum are the ones who also booked some additional sessions/workshops;  BUT I was surprised at the number of vendors who decided not to attend – clearly their sales must be over 1M a year, because who would ignore a networking session otherwise?
  • Hot buffet each day of the show for attendees and speakers,  very nice – although for me it was a serious challenge because I have a dairy allergy and each day they had items with cream or milk in them, the same with the coffee – no soy milk.  Then again, I have yet to attend a show that offered soy milk, although one time a server actually brought in their own the next day for me – that person deserves a raise!

The biggest knock on the show in previous years was that it was getting smaller with less vendors.

But I am going to tell you right now, that is there was ever a show that could turn around quickly it is this show.  The people attending were not just tire kickers (a term related to sales), but actual buyers.  I’d rather have 300 buyers than 10,000 tire kickers in my trade show floor any days of the week.


  • Lots of ILT vendors – again, the show has always been geared towards this, so no surprise, in fact, ATD formally known as ASTD has always been heavy on ILT and book things, and just in the last few years has seen a major increase in e-learning vendors, with the past show being nearly 50% – the highest ever.  Point being – WOLC could follow suit and I hope that it will.
  • Layout of the floor on their map could be more visible to see the numbers and names, I have yet to see any trade show that does this well, since I did not have my microscope on my me, squinting to see the names was a challenge


  • Number of vendors at the show, which is understandable

Vendors who have attended multiple times told me it has been getting smaller each year, which is a real shame.

A major reason I believe is perception of its power – most vendors unaware of the number of decision makers, and clearly Learning Technologies in January which has an extremely large attendee and vendors booths. 

More on Learning Technologies in a bit.

  • UK provincial attitude among vendors in general – this is in no way about WOLC, rather it is a general sense I got from a lot of vendors – they see only the UK as their focus, forgetting that people all over the world can go to their web site and see their product (this is in reference to e-learning vendors), as for ILT the same takeaway.  It was as though brick and mortar stores had never left.  Hey, where can I find a CBT course?
  • App – It wasn’t available in iTunes or Android, but you could download it via a QR scan.  I didn’t do it, because I hate QR scans, especially getting the freakin apps that you need for QR, prior to doing a scan
  • While the show had a @Learn_UKEvents (or something like that) for you to use in Twitter, I’d rather have one that had @WOLC and pushed not just that but also the hashtag #WOLC  for attendees to tweet; I’d also would have a giant screen in the show when you walk in, where you could see real time tweets – then again, most shows did not do the latter and while there were plenty of tweets for the show, this is all about streamlining the process
  • No networking dinners for attendees, a major reason this did not happen is because where the show is located.

It is at the NEC in Birmingham which is close to virtually nothing.  I think there were a couple of hotels nearby, but as for eating places – you needed to know the area and have wheels.  So how do you solve it?

Have shuttles available to take attendees to a few restaurants and then pick them up at a certain time.  Attendees then could select the restaurants via a list, write down their names and so forth.

I was fortunate to be staying at the Forest of Arden Marriott country club thing, where other speakers and platinum attendees stayed.  WOLC put together a networking event with all of us, and included a team building exercise prior to the meal. 

As someone who is hardcore e-learning, I have to say it was not only pure genius for the ILT team building exercise, but the approach in general was very nice.

Thus, I want to get a huge shout out to the company behind the team building session.

  I rarely rave positively about an ILT session, but if I was in the UK and wanted to do a team building event, I would hire these folks.

Their name? Sundial Teamscapes.

Why as an e-learning vendor you should attend this show

I will get right to the point on why as an e-learning vendor you should attend with a booth at the show.  Ready?

  • A lot of attendees are hungry for e-learning information, especially when it comes to specifics such as authoring tools and LMS/learning systems, heck even m-learning and yep, gamification, gaming courses and video courses
  • Some folks I talked to, had a LMS but were looking for a replacement OR did not have a system and was seeking out
  • I met quite a few folks who were being shoved with a LMS because their corporate office had it, they hated it and wanted their own – and for some they had the power to do so
  • Did I mention the decision makers?  I should have also mentioned many that came from some of the biggest consumer brands in the world as well as the UK
  • Show and Tell sales meetings on the floor in an area located on the floor every day,  one of my clients had multiple meetings in a day.  As any vendor who attends a trade show/conference will tell you, it is all about being seen, generating real leads which turn into sales is rare (it does happen, but closing time often goes past 6 months and even past one year).   Well, people were closing here.
  • There was ZERO authoring tools at the show.  One claimed he was a course building tool, but capturing notes and highlighting text in an e-book or digital textbook is not course building.   Oh and the number of web conferencing vendors – I can’t recall seeing one – maybe there were there – but I didn’t see them.  Last time I looked people in the UK use web conferencing for their online meetings AND people do build their own courses or want to do so because..
  • People are hungry for e-learning

Compared to the rest of the world, the UK in general is far behind – especially in learning technology.

I was surprised at the number of inquiries I got asking if there was a tool out there to build a course, rather than going down the custom build approach.  I should note that in the UK, the term “Bespoke” means custom. While there are folks who have a strong e-learning background, the greater amount do not.

I should mention that WOLC is heavily geared towards the corporate space (which includes non-profits, B2B, B2C, training providers seeking platforms, associations, etc.).

There were a lot of custom (Bespoke) course vendors in attendance, not really a surprise, because I see a huge swath of them at other conferences around the world.  There was also a few universities there pushing them as “digital or online” learning.  But they were just a tiny amount.  It was overwhelmingly vendors pitching product.

Worst marketing ideas ever

There were actually three vendors who deserve rightfully so to be on this list. 

Two I can’t remember (a bad sign), but did recall that one had a canoe in their booth, some outdoor theme, including drums you could beat on with your hands and it said action based learning (they were an ILT shop).

  The other one also had some outdoors like theme going, including a race truck/care thing people could drive around with a remote control.

So while they had memorable booths, not remembering your name is never good and falls into the bad marketing section.  I should mention that from an e-learning perspective, marketing as a whole is really really poor.

And the winner for bad marketing is

Big Picture.   I took a photo of the booth, because if I tried to explain it, I would need a huge whiteboard, lots of markers and Issac Newton to assist.

 photo (1)




Now I know what you are thinking, “Big Picture”, it must mean video or something like that. 

I know I did, which is probably why I walked past this booth four times, before finally looking at the top where all the vendors each have their names, and seeing their name.  You see, there is ZERO mention of it in the booth.

So what does the product actually look like?


photo  It comes with stickers too.  I was waiting for the guy who was ignoring me while he was talking to guy who was wearing a suit, to say it is online, but it is not.

However, I did find out you can talk while you are eating your fruit breakfast during your sales pitch without nailing others will grapes. 



While it is true I did recall them, it wasn’t in a positive manner.  Rather I felt like those kids in the 70’s who bought those cool Sea Monkeys you saw on the back of magazines, only to realize they were brine shrimp.

Winner of the Show

Nobody really set themselves apart, except for some vendor who had some type of creative thinking component, which I ignored. 

I’d say booth wise, people wise, etc. went to Growth Engineering. 

Cross Knowledge had the friendly folks as well, but their booth was a drab beige. The product had some features I like, but while I was talking with one guy, another guy stepped in and notified that they were in the midst of a deal, so he (guy I was talking to) had to end the discussion.  He did not, which I appreciated it.

The other guy, well, I don’t care if he was stressed out or not (I reached out to the person I was talking to later in the show to express my displeasure),  what he did was unprofessional at the minimum.

Cool Product of the Show

Didn’t really see anything that made me go, “I want it now. I must have it now.”  I mean even for the “take our promotional items” was pretty lame.

 I think I saw two vendors giving out a shot to win an iPad, one was offering the opportunity to win Rum (that was cool), but pens ruled the day. 

Dumbest Comments I heard at the show from vendors

I should have recorded these little gems, but my phone had a little juice left, so wasn’t doable.

From an actual LMS vendor at the show, when asked about their mobile app capability.  While they do have iOS, they did not have Android.  Why?

“We haven’t seen a real demand for it.”

They also tossed in my favorite gem other vendors love to pitch, “Our clients haven’t been asking for it.”  So, if your clients said they wanted a Palm PDA capability, you would do it?  

On another note that all vendors who pitch the “our clients haven’t asked for it”, if they don’t know – why would they ask?  If I have never seen a car before and I drive a horse buggy, how would I know to ask if you sell cars? 

Here is a thought – you as the vendor – should act like an expert.  Which leads me to another comment.

From a vendor who sells not only video custom content but also has a video course library they can sale to other LMS vendors. 

My Question – “What format is the video in?”  Salesperson’s response, “What do you mean?”  My retort, “The video. When you upload it, what is the format? .MP4, .AVI, .WMV, etc.”  Salesperson’s response, “I don’t know.  No one has asked me that before.” And this person is selling their product.

I heard from several attendees that salespeople from multiple vendors (not the one noted above) not only could not answer their questions, but that they (salespeople), didn’t even know their own product.

Learning Technologies show effect

I definitely believe that this show has a huge impact on the World of Learning Conference, from an attendee and vendor perspective.  I have never physically been at LT, but I did talk to multiple vendors who have been at previous shows, and some of which are going back again.

Here are some of the comments from these vendors

  • Massive size show, 300 plus vendors (I do not know the actual count, but 300 came up in numerous discussions)
  • You (as a vendor) have to be there (to be seen)
  • Because the size of the show it is easy to get lost (as in being seen by everyone)
  • A lot of attendees
  • One vendor said, “It is like they just opened the gates and let anyone in there”  (again, no way I can confirm, never been there, BUT I heard similar comments from two other vendors, which shows at least to me, something of a confirmation at least in size)
  • Not that many decision makers (I heard this again from multiple vendors, but my sense, is that because of the size of attendees, you as a vendor can just become a quick stop pit.  There is no doubt in my mind that the show gets decision makers, but from my chats with these vendors they get a lot of “tire kickers” (my term, not the vendors).

The show I surmise might be quite similar to ATD (formally known as ASTD) in terms of number of attendees and vendors.  The difference obviously is that LT is all about learning technology and ATD is not 100% focused on LT, rather it is still strong on the ILT and paper angle. 

In the UK the big three shows are BETT (for education), LT and WOLC.   I believe that for many vendors, due to the size and scope of LT, they focus only on that show, rather than WOLC, which in my opinion is a monumental mistake.

I have no problem for any vendor to go to LT, but my take is why go only to that show and ignore WOLC? Many vendors in the US go to multiple shows to expand their brand footprint.

Bottom Line

I am sending out a coded message to every e-learning vendor in the world.

I won’t be using a telegraph, nor the Pony Express, or kids selling penny papers on the corner.

Rather I am going to just type it for all to see:

“If you want to generate more business. If you want to get your product more exposure. If you want to grow your identify in the United Kingdom, Ireland and in some parts of Europe.  If you want to provide insight and knowledge to people who want and need that information to make informed decisions.  And you want people who have buying power to stop and talk to you, then go to WOLC in 2015”

You’ll be glad you did.

E-Learning 24/7




  1. Hi Craig – that’s a great summary of WOLC, thank you. You’re right regarding the ‘scale’ of Learning Technologies and it is often the default choice for Vendors here in the UK. I would say they have generally done a better job of marketing the event to Vendors in the past than WOLC – which may explain the size of the event – but given your summary of WOLC we’ll definitely take a look for next year.

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