How I Blog – JD Dillon

At this year’s DevLearn, we’re putting a spotlight on the power of blogging for learning via the DevLearn Bloggers program. We’ve invited members of the DevLearn Bloggers team to write a post exploring how they approach blogging, and how it enhances their personal learning.

In this post we hear from JD Dillon, Director—Learning Technology & Development at Kaplan Higher and Professional Education, whose blogging of conference planning and reflections are a great examples of blogging that provides learning value to the writer as well as the readers.

Dillon_JDI write … A LOT. However, the bulk of my writing has historically been focused on my employer, meaning it never gets read outside the firewall. In early 2014, I took the long-intended step to launch my own learning and performance blog via jddillon.com. Still, because I was writing so much during my 9-5, it was difficult to dedicate added time and focus to my own blog. While I was planning for the 2014 Learning Solutions Conference, I found a way to both increase my public writing activity and enrich my event experience.

Planning

I advocate for workplace transparency by making the effort to work out loud constantly with my team. It was pretty easy to extend this idea to my conference planning activities through my blog. I now have a standard set of 3 posts I typically publish leading up to an event.

  • First, I share a list of reasons for why I have decided to attend an event. This post is often helpful when explaining my absence from work to peers and partners as well as when attempting to justify expenses (when I have the chance to get reimbursed).
  • If I’ve attended the event before, I write a brief post listing my favorite suggestions for maximizing the experience to help new attendees as well as those looking to take a new approach.
  • After piecing together my session schedule via the conference app (when available), I publish it (backup sessions and after hours activities included) as a way to connect with attendees with similar interests.

In some cases, I also write posts for industry events that I am NOT attending as a way to remain familiar with the conferences and engage with participants from afar.

Reflection

I take plenty of notes during a conference with a specific focus on sharing in real-time via Twitter. However, I often don’t have the time/energy to turn those notes into daily event recaps. I leave that to folks like Bianca Woods and Dan Steer. Rather, I schedule time to review Twitter and Evernote during the week following the event. This usually starts on the plane ride home. Then, I task myself with publishing a recap blog post that explores both the professional and personal sides of my experience 7 days after my return to work. This helps me truly reflect on my time at the event and make practical connections to my work that may not be evident during the hustle and bustle of the conference.

Extension

There’s only so much you can really learn when you’re running from activity to activity at a big conference. As a presenter, I acknowledge that we can only dig into a topic to a limited degree during an hour session. My blog provides me the opportunity to extend my engagement with participants both before and after the event. While I always use Twitter to continue session discussion, blog posts allow for in-depth, long-form sharing.

In the weeks leading up to a conference, I share an overview of the topic I will be presenting to help attendees determine if my session will be the best use of their valuable time. This is especially important for me given the fact that I almost never publish session materials before the conference, as I prefer to tinker with my presentation until sometimes hours before delivery to maximize relevance. After the event, I review my personal session notes as well as those shared by attendees via the conference app, Twitter, blogs, and other forums. I may then write additional posts to answer outstanding questions or provide depth to the presentation topic that could not be accomplished during the session.

And that’s how I blog to enrich my conference experience. You can already check out my “I’m going to #DevLearn 2015 because …” post, which will be followed by several more articles exploring the event from my perspective as both a participant and presenter. I hope to see you there!

Want to share how you use your blog for learning and at conferences? Contact David Kelly to learn how to contribute to the “How I Blog” series.

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