#LSCon Reflections: Our Ultimate Quest – Learning Solutions Demofest 2016 by Anne Paine

This post comes from Anne Paine, Learning Solutions Manager at Apex Performance Solutions. She and her co-worker Alane Schnelker participated in their first DemoFest and WON!  Read her account and lessons learned in this exciting and informative community perspective post. 

 

Alane and I just got back from the eLearning Guild Demofest and we’re still reeling from the experience!

What is Demofest and why is it such a big deal? You can think of Demofest as a grown-up science fair for eLearning professionals. Each team gets to share a unique project with their industry peers who cast votes for their favorites in a “speed-dating” type of environment. It’s fast and furious, and a lot of fun! You are not there to sell your services or your product, just to share your creative solution with others in the eLearning industry and give them ideas they can apply to similar problems – and you might even win an award! Our entry for DemoFest was an Onboarding solution we created for one of our clients. We were beyond ecstatic when our submission was accepted! (We learned later that hundreds of projects had been submitted for consideration and only 50 had been accepted to present at Demofest.) The pressure was on. We were equally thrilled and terrified!

Kurt sent me, Anne Paine (Learning Solutions Manager extraordinaire), and Alane Schnelker (our amazing Technical Writer and Voice Talent), to represent Apex at Demofest. We headed off together, with high hopes, to the wilds of Orlando, Florida.

The eLearning Guild Demofest is not new. In fact, this was the 15th time it had been held. That meant that there was plenty of expertise to be gleaned from Mark Britz (our Demofest liaison) and past presenters.

Here are the top 5 tips we got for presenting at Demofest:

  1. Have a Short but Engaging Elevator Speech – Imagine over 1,500 people wanting to hear about your project and having less than a minute to tell them about it.
  2. Have a Short Highlight Reel – Some people may not have much time to talk to you but would like to see a quick overview of your project.
  3. Let People Play – Have a device available for people to see and try out your project.
  4. Bring Bottled Water – You will be talking continually for 2 hours.
  5. Relax and Have Fun – People want to see your solution. They are excited and supportive. They are there to learn from you, not to criticize you.

Demofest was held on a Thursday evening in the Palm Ballroom and we were as ready as we could be. Elevator Speech? Check. Highlight Reel? Check. Demo Machine? Check. Bottled Water? Check. Relaxed. Um, not so much….  But 4 out of 5 ain’t bad! The Palm Ballroom could accommodate about 2,100 people and was laid out to hold 50 small Demofest tables, 100 nervous Demofest presenters and the 1,500+ conference participants. Our adrenaline was pumping as we set up our table. We could hear the impatient chatter of the conference participants outside of the room, waiting for the doors to open. However, nothing could have prepared us for the masses of people that poured in once Demofest began. People immediately surrounded us wanting to see our demo, hear about the problem we solved, and play our learning game. If your peers think your solution is creative, engaging, and solves a problem in a unique way, they will vote for you.

Everything we had been told about Demofest was spot on. Before we knew it, the two hours were over, our voices were nearly gone, and it was time for the winners to be determined. Votes were tallied up and winners were announced – one per category and two “Best in Show” trophies.

Just having our project selected to participate in Demofest was a huge win for us. Being a small company in the room with heavy hitters like American Greetings, PayPal, and ELearning Bros…Wow! We felt honored just to have made it into the room with these guys!

Getting praise and accolades from our peers in the Learning Industry was incredibly gratifying. Knowing that our team built something creative that inspired others in the industry, made us feel awesome!

But actually WINNING the Best Onboarding/Orientation Solution at Demofest was beyond our wildest dreams! Alane and I were screaming as we rushed up to the stage to get our award! We took some picture and got lots of hugs and high fives from the other participants. Through it all, the only thing that kept running through my head was “We Won! We Won! We Won!”

To be honest, I don’t know who else won after our company name was called, but I am sure they all had amazing solutions!

The best part is that Apex is now recognized as an International Award Winning eLearning Company!

Demofest 2017 – here we come!

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