Annually, the ASTD (now ATD) International Conference & Exposition (ICE) draws thousands of learning and development professionals from all over the world, each clamoring for ideas, strategies, and techniques to improve the quality of their learning and organizational development efforts. Hundreds of firms set up exhibits throughout what seems like miles of hallways offering the latest in everything from cloud-based learning solutions, coaching, and instructional design software to name a few. However, despite the size and draw of this event, attendance eludes many of us. As a result, this post is for those who couldn’t attend this year’s event (including myself). Naturally a curious person, I wanted to learn anything I could from the event, despite not being in attendance.
With the support of the local ASTD chapter and responses within the chapter LinkedIn group, I was able to conduct a survey and interviews with several local attendees and speakers over the past few weeks. The following are the result of this survey and interviews.
Biggest Takeaways from the Event
- Networking & Success Stories
Mentioned by almost all respondents, networking was by far the biggest takeaway from the event. I believe it is safe to say that most professionals understand and embrace the value of networking. Given the diversity among attendees, there was much that could be learned by networking with professionals from around the world. Its opportunities such as these that open doors to new opportunities or provide insight enable you to have a breakthrough moment in project development.
- Leadership Buy In and Involvement in the Learning Process
Several respondents spoke to the importance of gaining buy in from leadership, not just at the beginning of the design, but also throughout the development of the learning program. Maintaining open lines of communication and the involvement of leadership throughout the design process will reduce the risk of a potential disconnect between the learning objectives & outcomes as it relates to the impact on the goals of the organization. In addition, gaining buy in ensure that they understand the value of investing capital and resources into the learning initiative and will provide the necessary support and motivation to see the project through to completion.
- Creating “Training Programs” versus “Training Events”
Another common theme expressed at the conference was the need to develop “Training Programs” versus “Training Events.” One of my favorite learning quotes clearly explains what this means.
There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
When a training course ends for a learner, doesn’t mean that the learning process ends. Design your learning experiences as comprehensive programs that integrate additional learning and collaboration opportunities leading up to the course as well as after the course. This will increase the potential for enhance learning and on-the-job application of learned concepts or skills. In the end, it is better for the learning and the organization due to higher retention and performance.
- Tech integration for enhanced Learning & Collaboration
At this point it goes without saying that technology has and will continue to play a significant role in the changing landscape of how we learn. Technology affords us the ability to learn without boundaries. Improvements in technology in the field of learning & development continue to evolve and create new learning capabilities both in the classroom as well as through distance learning and online courseware. Through the use of social media, apps, and other tech tools, you now have a diverse toolbox of resources to deliver learning when & where your learners need it.
- TU102 – Strengths-Based Performance Management: Do What the Best Leaders Do
Presented by Marcus Buckingham – One of my favorite speakers, Marcus apparently delivered yet another riveting presentation according to one of the respondents who stated, “Marcus Buckingham’s presentation on Strengths-Based Performance Management was excellent. He is such a charismatic and engaging speaker, and his thoughts just resonated with me. His theory is that Training is the ‘seed’ for learning, but a good performance management system and frequent follow-up provide the fertile ground for that seed to grow.” If you’re interested in more from Marcus Buckingham on this topic, he wrote a post dated 12/3/2013 on Harvard Business Review titled “What if Performance Management Focused on Strengths?”
- M300 – Case Study: Disney’s Approach to Selection, Training, and Engagement
What do customers remember more: products or people? When Walt Disney decided the answer was people, he hit upon an essential business truth that led to an immediate and sustained success. At Disney, we sync the mission of small teams with the culture of the whole organization. So while there may be thousands of job classifications, there will always be one common goal: exceptional guest experiences.
- M209 – The Accidental Instructional Designer
Presented by Cammy Bean – Most of the instructional designers in the e-learning business got here by accident. This session took a look at four key areas to focus on in order to become a well-rounded e-learning designer, talk about ways that you can take your practice to the next level, and share some quick tips for better e-learning design.
There were other presentations mentioned, however given the extensive amount of tracks and presentations available, I highly recommend that you visit the event website (Click Here) and begin your educational journey.
Whether you attended the event or not, a substantial amount of session materials are available for download directly on the ASTD ICE event website. Whether you were unable to attend or perhaps had to make a difficult decision to attend one session versus another, there is a wealth of information available for download. Visit the following link to be sent directly to the materials made available (Click Here).
SPECIAL NOTES: These materials will be removed by August 8, 2014.
Last but not least, I wanted to share some of the insights from one of the speakers at the conference. I was fortunate enough to have a phone conversation with Holly Burkett PhD, SPHR, CPT who is a resident of Sacramento and the Principal of Evaluation Works (more on her company here). Her session was titled “W311 – Sustaining the ROI Process During Changing Times and Shifting Tides.” The interactive session used real-world case scenarios to help attendees identify critical change issues that must be addressed when adopting, maintaining, or sustaining a results-based measurement process. An innovative framework for assessing an organization’s evaluation process and practice maturity was introduced and had an opportunity to use the framework to assess their own organization during the session. They walked away with practical tools and job aids for enhancing the long-term value, and overall change resiliency, of their measurement plans and practices, and identified characteristics of a sustainable measurement process. In conversation with her, she brought up some salient points that have changed the way that I approach performance evaluations and how I will develop them going forward. I highly recommend you explore her materials, as they will be of value to you.
In a follow-up post, I will focus on ways to get more out of your conference experience and prepare you for next year, whether you plan to attend or not. Stay tuned!