Guest Blogger, Mark Sheppard: Not Attending ATD ICE? The Backchannel Saves the Day

ATD 2015

ATD International Conference and Expo!

In Orlando!

In just 6 days!

I’ll be there! Oh, shucks – you won’t be? I’m truly sorry to have missed you. (Cue sad face)

A close network friend of mine won’t be there either. (Cue another sad face)

But won’t he? He will be there in spirit. In the Backchannel. That’s the beauty of technology these days, we can be anywhere and pretty much have a front row seat. I asked Mark to give me his insights as to how he will be participating from afar and his advice on making use of the backchannel. What’s a backchannel you may ask? Well here’s David Kelly to tell us more.

Mark gives us some good advice about twitter and the backchannel.  My advice, find someone who will be there and who you follow (ahem…learning rebels perhaps?), open up a stream on hootesuite or tweetdeck just for them and open one for #ATD2015 and you will get all sorts of great information. Not on twittter, well okay then – go to the Learning Rebels Facebook page, like us and keep an eye on the stream. You know me, I love to take pictures and there will be lots posted there with info on the conference chattering.  So be sure to check and interact, I’ll be there to answer your questions!

But now I turn over the podium to Mark Sheppard Training Coordinator, Northern Lights Canada  

Mark Sheppard

Another week, another conference missed. Almost.

As folks from parts distant get ready for ATD ICE (International Conference & Exposition), many of us homebodies will be missing the opportunity to meet new colleagues, exchange ideas, and generally get inspired. Us stay-at-homes lose out.

Well, maybe not.

I admit that I get a little maudlin over missing out on really good conferences. I get new ideas from peers and learning leaders alike.  I especially love seeing my peers on stage sharing their knowledge and lessons with the audience, and I do regret not being able to attend.

But does attendance really demand presence? Sure, it’s a matter of debate. Let’s just say it matters less than it used to.

Okay, so you can’t go to this conference, so what?  You’re on a computer, aren’t you?  You have access to the Interwebz, don’t you?  You have a PLN (Personal Learning Network), don’t you? If you answered, “yes” to any of those questions, you’re in luck. You can get a lot of the insights shared from the conference, and while it might take some work on your part, it’s well worth the effort.

Let’s start with basic backchannel lurking.

Following conference hashtags via Twitter is a simple way to see what’s happening. You can get snippets and snapshots and other bite-size pieces from conference attendees. For a lot of non-attendees, this is how they follow what happens and what is said at the conference.

However, Twitter limits you to 140 characters. Among the criticisms of Twitter is lack depth or context in conversations or messages. At worst, it becomes a massive game of broken telephone when longer messages get truncated or edited to fit the <140 constraint.  The character limit also make real curation difficult. so that begs the question of how to get more from your lurking?

Let’s assume you have a Personal Learning Network of some kind. Let’s start using it. Let’s find who might be going.  Find who might know someone who might be attending.  Start building a network of personal correspondents. Take the time to study the conference agenda, see what’s interesting, find the speakers who inspire you and get YOUR questions answered. Find out who might be blogging the event and writing more detailed reflections and recaps. Start commenting or asking questions.

I don’t want you to think I’m bashing Twitter, but if you want to make sense of the backchannel stream here’s where some of the harder work comes in. To get some depth to what you have seen from your PLN and perhaps to get access to things you didn’t see, take advantage of Storify (  It can extract relevant tweets, pictures, FB posts…in fact, almost any online source.  This is your way of getting ALL the backchannel conversations. The hard work comes in doing the filtering and the analysis.

Storify to the rescue!

Where tools like Storify really come in handy is when events are hard to follow in real-time, or they are happening outside your usual timezone. For example, Shannon Tipton [hey, that’s me!](, Ryan Tracey (, and I (and a high-powered cast of speakers) are going to be on stage at EduTECH 2015 in Brisbane, Australia (2-3 June). Folks in Europe, Africa, and North/South America who want to partake of the backchannel in real-time might find that a bit of a challenge, but by leveraging correspondents to pre-populate questions and/or tools like Storify to capture what you might have missed, you’ll have a chance to glean insights from participants at your convenience. More than that, you can see trends emerging in the discussion and learn a lot about the conference experience (very handy if you’re limited in funding and want to make the right decisions.

So there you have it.  A couple of different ways for you to get a little more engaged in the conference process. Sure, it’s not quite the same thing as being in attendance, but it sure beats not participating at all.


Happy conferencing and happy backchannel!
How are you planning to get the most out of your conference experience? Let us know!
Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

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