Are You Ready? Your ATD ICE Conference Bag!

Whats in your bag

After Mark Sheppard’s guest blog from last week discussing the use of the back channel as a way to attend the ICE conference virtually – it got me thinking about those who will be there.

Last year, David Kelly interviewed me for the (then) upcoming Dev Learn Conference sponsored by the Elearning Guild. There was a lot of good information captured from a variety of people. Therefore, I would like share my portion of the series with all of you, especially those of you who may be conference newbies. You can see the rest of the Elearning Guild “What’s in Your Conference Bag” series here.

So now with Dave’s blessing, is a bit of information about my own personal conference preparations.  For your information, I included a conference preparation checklist at the bottom of this post, be sure to download! I look forward to your comments as to how you are preparing for your own experience.

(this post has been adapted to reflect the upcoming ATD ICE conference in Orlando)

Interview with yours truly with Red Feather Network master Michele Phillips – Hear about the story of Learning Rebels and what we’ll be up to at ATD ICE this year. Let’s plan to connect face to face if you are going to be in Orlando!

Let’s see what our conference bags have in common!

Besides the conference-provided materials, what do I carry in my conference bag?

You mean besides my phone with the conference app loaded?


  • Notebook/Pen(s) – sometimes you need to go old school. I usually carry a moleskin book which holds conference notes from other conferences as well.
  • iPad with Logitech keyboard cover – I find I can take notes faster and easier if I can type them. I keep my notes on evernote.  I can then share my notes with other members of my team who were not able to attend the conference.
  • Portable Charger – the ABC’s of conferences: Always, Be, Charging! New Trent iCarrier 12000mAh Portable Dual USB Port External Battery Charger/Power Pack.
  • Water bottle to refill during the day
  • Up to date business cards
  • Not in my bag but almost always in my hand – coffee.
  • Zee! #ATDZEBRA my unofficial mascot (here dressed in all his Red Feather Network glory)


What to do BEFORE a conference to plan and get more out of the experience?

  1. Mine your network to find out if any people you connect with are going to be there. Find out where they are staying, tentatively plan dinners and find out where tweet-ups may be happening.
  2. Determine a specific conference goal – this year it’s all about the Expo and networking. For example: 2 years ago at the ASTD ICE expo it was about finding translators who could translate the LMS into multiple languages, the year before it was simulation developers.
  3. Goal for the sessions – for example: last year I wanted to learn everything I could about mobile learning, from development to best practices. So I focused my sessions there, then I carved out time to support friends who were presenting and attended where I could.
  4. Determine if there are any networking events you want to attend, some are paid and some are free. Determine if you feel the event will be worth your time. This is where connecting with your network ahead of time helps.

What do I do to keep the learning going after the conference ends?

I know it sounds old school, but I connect with everyone from whom I collected a business card. The best part of the conference is adding new people to my network, so I want to find them on FB or twitter.

A lot times sessions are connected to chat groups or FB pages, I make note of those and add them to the list of things to investigate when I get home.  I keep a separate list on Evernote for apps or tools mentioned that I found interesting I spend time reviewing that list to determine what I can actually use now, versus what goes into an idea file.

What apps/tools/resources help you get the most out of a conference? (It doesn’t have to be technology)

  1. My phone – the camera gets a heavy work out. This year I’ll use the Learning Rebels pinterest and facebook account to organize the photos and share.
  2. The conference guide, sticky notes and a highlighter. (I use lots and lots of sticky notes!)
  3. Evernote (how did we ever effectively collaborate before evernote?)
  4. Google Docs. I keep lists there to share.
  5. Twitter! I have met some of the best people through tweet-ups, find what the event official hashtag is and keep it opened. I use hootsuite.
  6. FB group chats via messenger – the quickest way to plan a meet-up with a specific group of people.
  7. Download the app for the event for the latest/greatest session updates.
  8. Open Table and Yelp for those last minute group dinners
  9. Expensify to track my expenses.
  10. Layar to scan business cards directly on my phone.

Paper program guide for a conference or a dedicated conference app? Why?

I use both.  I know organizers mean well, but there are times the app doesn’t quite work. I do use the app scheduler, with a backup of the program guide to plan my day.  I take time each night to review the plan for the next day because you may have heard of a session that is highly recommended and then find out the session is fill to capacity. You need a plan “B”.

What do I look to take away from a conference experience?

New connections and connecting with old friends.  99% of the time this is the only time you see your network face to face, I look forward to taking advantage of that time.

What topics are of the most interest in right now?

Immersive Learning.  I’m always interested in how other companies are looking to conduct learning differently in their organizations.  How are they leveraging social applications, crowd sourcing, and action learning to improve the business – not just for today but for the years moving forward?  I’m always open for a conversation about how to make corporate learning a more engaging and learning centric experience.

One piece of advice to someone attending a conference for the first time?

Take the time to plan.  Even if it’s just surfing the conference site.  ASTD ICE in particular is HUGE! Lots of things to see, lots of sessions to attend, lots of people to meet.  It can be very intimidating if you don’t go in with a plan.  I learned that the hard way, in the middle of a large conference hall not knowing what or where to go next.  Know your goal, this is an expense conference, you want to get the biggest bang for your buck!

If I were to give a new attendee one task to complete that would define conference success, what would it be?

You will come back with a lot of ideas swimming in your head.  Find the one idea that you can put into action now.  Then try it.  It may be a small idea taken from a session, or something someone told you about, or a website or app to try out.  But pick one and do it! Then reach out to your network and share your experiences.  That is how we all learn and grow, when we share!

Last but not least! 

Above all else, have fun.  Talk to people, find someone new to sit with at lunch. Find time to investigate the area and meet new people.  Take advantage of the book store, they will have book signings and you will be able to meet people with interesting perspectives and points of view.

Download this Conference Checklist!  Hopefully this list will help you prepare for your trip to Orlando. From things to pack – to things to do. I hope you find it useful, and I look forward to seeing you there. Be sure to find me at my VIP Tweet-Up, sponsored by the Red Feather Network!

tweetup shannon


Share with us! Tell us how you are going to be preparing for your conference experience!



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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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