I've only been to LT a couple of times before, back in 2005/6. There seemed to be much more going on this year and that point of view was reinforced by a conversation I had with a former colleague who felt that this year there were genuine innovations in evidence, rather than last year which, for him at least, had been a load of waffle and hot air. Others may differ in this view of course.
In this post I'll look at the exhibitors and I'll talk about the (free) talks that I caught later.
As always with these things, some stands made a bigger point than others. The Adobe stand was the fanciest, a bold statement written in brand that diminished every other in the room. They had an entire auditorium put over to non-stop replays of their demos of Captivate/Flash and Acrobat. The new e-learning suite looks fantastic and looks to offer a new way of working to companies whose IDs are that bit more technical, offering seamless integration and movement between Captivate, Flash and Photoshop. People with the skill set to exploit the entire suite are going to be few and far between, but if you have a group of developers and IDs working across projects then by all accounts the new system could have a profound effect.
Other big stands included Mohive, Skillsoft, PPI, Epic, Line and Brightwave. Saffron Interactive were present again with a reprise of their kitchen of a few years ago, pushing the 'blended' learning angle with blended drinks (perhaps they do this every year). That year they were giving away copies of Clive Shepherd's blended learning cookbook, an underestimated work of great value that has probably given birth to many learning interventions over the past couple of years. This year, not representing a potentially valuable client, as I did in 2006, I was unable to score a copy of the new book. Sad really as the last one has been a good help to me over the years.
But frankly most of these companies were all saying the same thing, so their messages are barely worth repeating (though at last I got a handle on what Mohive's tool does that other e-learning companies find so useful - you can use it to storyboard and review, even if you ultimately use other tools to create).
Caspian were demoing their remarkable “easy to use” 3D tool for creating immersive environments. Following a couple of demos you could see the vestiges of click-to-progress e-learning hidden in some of the projects, but when your progression is through a well realised real-time 3D environment, who would ever notice? For big card learning, such as the airline and oil-rig safety demos they were trailing at the show, it's hard to imagine how or what else you might want to put in its place.
Small time players offered more delicate delights. Aardpress Publishing, who I saw over the summer when they announced their Moomis suite of corporate reporting tools was going to be made open source. These are guys who have wised-up to the potential of using software you don't have to pay for, and in developing their add-ons have made a useful contribution to Moodle. For giving away software that they have spent time working on, they deserve kudos.
One thing that was missing from the show was the general air of doom and gloom that seems to be prevalent just about everywhere else. I spoke to a couple of companies who were quietly confident about the coming months, though no-one was so incautious as to make bold claims for the state of play by the end of the year. The general feeling was that to be freelance right now would probably be okay. Hmm. We'll see...
Various presenters did mention stats that they had rustled up from their clients, but even those did not seem to be too terrifying. There were stories that people were cutting back, but it wasn't everybody, so the jury will have to remain out on this, for the next couple of months at least. Whatever happens I think that companies with diverse client bases will stand the best chance, while smaller players who struggle for business (like absentees Academy Internet) will get swallowed up by larger companies with the resources to ride out the troubles ahead.
Just a pointer for anyone thinking of going next year - the in venue facilities were lousy. The coffee was so-so, the food average and the service barely deserving of the name (I honestly thought the girl in the cloakroom was just going to give up and go home half way through trying to retrieve my case). If you want a decent break away from the floor next year try The Albion pub just up the road - decent food, nice enough beer, cosy environs and, hopefully fixed for next year, WiFi.