With over two decades of experience running international technology meetings, Corbin Ball is a highly acclaimed speaker, consultant, and writer who helps clients use technology to increase their efficiency and productivity. Because his work focuses primarily at the intersection of technology and meetings – rather than solely on learning – he offers a slightly different perspective to those of us in the business of lifelong learning.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Celisa talks with Corbin about what’s going on in the world of meetings and technology, including virtual conferences and virtual and augmented reality, as well as their impact on learning and the potential benefits and limitations associated with each.
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[00:18] – Our sponsor this quarter is ReviewMyLMS, a collaboration between our company, Tagoras, and 100Reviews, the company that is behind the very successful ReviewMyAMS site. As the name suggests, ReviewMyLMS is a site where users can share and access reviews of learning management systems, but in this case, the focus is specifically on systems that are a good fit for learning businesses, meaning organizations that market and sell lifelong learning. Contribute a review and you will get access to all existing and future reviews—there are already more than 100 on the site. And, if you don’t have review to contribute, there is also a subscription option. Just go to reviewmylms.com to get all the details.
[01:22] – Highlighted Resource of the Week – The Tagoras virtual events report, Association Virtual Conferences: State of the Sector – We’re currently in the process of running a new survey and we’ll be issuing a new edition of the report in the fall of 2018, but for now you can access the previous report, which is chockfull of data about how organizations are—and aren’t—using virtual conferences.
[01:52] – A preview of what will be covered in this podcast where Celisa interviews Corbin Ball.
[02:58] – Introduction to Corbin and some additional information about his work.
[04:23] – You’re working at the intersection of technology and meetings, and meetings and technology can be used for a variety of purposes. Since this is the Leading Learning Podcast I’d like to focus on the use of technology and meetings to support and provide learning opportunities. What do you see as the relationship between technology and meetings and learning? In the work you do, are meetings primarily tied to learning? Corbin says they are and traditionally the two reasons people go to events are for networking and education/learning. With the rapid pace of change, job skills get quickly outdated and what we learn in college is obsolete in a few years so meetings are one of the primary means of education for the industrialized world. Technology, when used properly, can assist in that learning process and increase retention but the meetings themselves are a very important means of education around the world.
[05:49] – One of the areas you’ve given attention to is virtual meetings. What do you see as the major benefits of virtual events and their major limitations, especially as related to learning? Corbin talks about how virtual events and online learning play a very important role in learning and education. Webinars and other virtual meetings are a great source for short, information exchange. Their strengths are they are much less expensive, many of the tools are free, and they do not require travel. However, in today’s multitasking and often distracted work environment, attention spans are short. His general rule of thumb is 35-45 min, maybe an hour, is the maximum you can expect someone to pay attention to a webinar, for example.
On the other hand, meetings take people to a more focused environment with fewer distractions. The opportunities for networking, brainstorming, and relationship building are far greater at a face-to-face event than online. Corbin says the power of meetings is they provide a vastly richer, more targeted, and more focused learning experience than most virtual meetings. But virtual meetings, for a short information exchange, are a really important vehicle as well.
[08:18] – What changes have you noticed around the technology that supports these virtual meetings? Corbin points out that webinars, webcasting, and videoconference systems are well established and reliable. The good news is many of them are quite inexpensive or free and they’ve become a mainstay—many people use them as one means of getting information and the reliability factor is excellent these days.
[09:25] – Where would you put us on the adoption curve for virtual meetings? Corbin says the benefit for on-demand learning is huge and it will eventually transform education at all levels as we know it. It won’t eliminate face-to-face education but the approach we’ve had in the past is changing. Instead of dispensers of information, speakers are becoming facilitators of learning. So there’s a great opportunity for learning modules that are going to be focused specifically on individual’s needs and will be based using AI and responses on where they’re at and their learning styles—there is great opportunity for development in these areas.
[11:08] – You’ve also been thinking and speaking about the impact of virtual reality and augmented reality on events. What are your thoughts on the major benefits and limitations of VR and AR at this point? Corbin starts with VR and explains that it can present information in a completely new perspective and will likely have a significant impact on learning. However, we are still in the very early adoption phase. The major tech companies have invested billions on VR, but in the early adoption phase, the quality needs to improve and the price needs to come down—it’s currently quite a fragmented market. Corbin explains there are places that VR is being used at events and the novelty is a strong attracter at trade show booths and there are legitimate uses in design for exhibit booths or meeting room setups.
Another major challenge with VR is that it’s entirely a new medium and content creators are still trying to figure out what the best practices are so it’s a long way to go until we’re there. With augmented reality, Corbin thinks it will be different. AR offers a view of the real world supplemented by computer-generated input of images, sound, GPS data, etc. He expects we will see an explosive adoption and changes in the next few years, in the near term on mobile devices, and AR is going to be a common feature in everyday life. Eventually with more non-intrusive looking glasses, it should be more widely used as well. He says the fact that you can see the real world and others interacting with this provides greater opportunities for collaboration and learning in a group environment—it’s unlike VR which currently completely isolates you from your surroundings.
[16:21] – We’ve touched on virtual meetings and AR and VR. What other trends do see impact meetings and events and the learning that happens at those meetings and events? Corbin shares that one of the most significant trends is in mobile technology in general. It’s bringing a new level of engagement to event participants and leading to a richer, fuller event experience—and he thinks it will continue to do so. Also, technology is providing much better detail regarding an attendee journey in events. We can use that to improve the event experience for the individual in a much more targeted way, use it to improve events in general, and also to contact attendees in a much more targeted manner. So data analytics and all the myriad of data collection tools that are evolving at events have brought them front and center to an overall marketing campaign for corporations. They’re also really important for improving member satisfaction for associations.
[18:49] – Do you find that a lot of organizations are aware of that data and using that data? Corbin says it’s getting better all the time and the newer cloud-based software systems are, at their heart, mobile enabled and built to share information. So the newer technologies that are coming out make that process much easier than in the past. He thinks it’s up to the software companies to develop their analytics engines and make them accessible to other companies and that process is becoming a lot easier than it has in the past. Another technology that Corbin sees happening for events are making the event experience much more friction-free.
[20:42] – You work with so many different organizations to optimize their use of technology at meetings. Are there typical missteps? And/or do you have high-level advice for listeners who want to make sure they’re doing what they should for technology and meetings? Corbin points out that technology is not an end, it’s a means to an end, and hopefully for a better event experience. He recommends the first questions to ask when using or considering new technologies are:
- What are your goals and objectives in using it?
- How do you expect it will improve the event for the attendee, exhibitor, event planner, etc.? and,
- How will you measure and quantify those successes?
So start with the basics. There are a lot of bells and whistles technologies out there you can throw in just for fun but Corbin thinks that broader perspective of how they fit in to the meetings, events, and goals (and making sure those align), is most important.
[22:24] – When you think big picture about what’s going on these days at that intersection of meetings, technology, and learning that we’ve been talking about, are there any developments or changes that get you excited? Or worried? Corbin predicts events and learning in general will likely change more in the next five years than they have in the last fifteen due to technology. Online learning will transform education at all levels as we know, people will learn from customized modules based on their learning styles, interests, and ability, group learning will be very important to discuss and analyze content, and for events, speakers will become less dispensers of information and more facilitators of learning.
[23:54] – What is one of the most powerful learning experiences you’ve been involved in, as an adult, since finishing your formal education? Corbin shares the most powerful learning experiences he’s had as an adult at events are when gifted speakers transform how he’s looked at things. He believes a skilled, professional speaker can change lives and have a very strong impact at events.
[26:09] – How to connect with Corbin and/or learn more:
- Website: https://corbinball.com/
- Twitter: @corbinball
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/corbin.ball
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/corbinball/
[26:55] – Wrap Up
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[29:06] – Sign off