ATD ICE 2017 is in the books!
(Association for Talent and Development International Conference and Expo)
This year L&D geeks migrated from across the globe to Atlanta Georgia for the ATD ICE 2017 conference. Some looking for the latest and greatest in technology, others looking for inspiration, some looking for new contacts and even new business. I believe this to be my ten-year ATD conference anniversary, and ya know what? I’m still excited to be attending. I’m still excited to learn new things and meet new people. This year had a different spin, I had the pleasure of hosting a one-day preconference session of Learning Rebels original content. Microlearning in Micro Time. I tell you, we had a blast! There were 30 people in the workshop, all with lively personalities and a driving curiosity to learn more. This is what makes a great start to any conference. While I was hosting the workshop, I began to think about the different people who attend conferences.
I find that ATD ICE peeps fall into one of several categories
The dazed and confused
The bored and reluctant
The excited and curious
The curious and seasoned
Dazed and Confused
The people in the “dazed and confused” category are those, most likely, who are attending their first ATD ICE conference. Remember we are talking anywhere from 8 – 10,000 learning and development geeks in one place, so it’s easy to be overwhelmed. You can spot one in the wild by the glassy look in their eyes as they pass by the same coffee stand for the fifth time trying to find the session room they are supposed to be in. You know, the ones who look like kids on their first trip to Disneyland. So cute, I just want to swoop down and play tour guide.
Bored and Reluctant
The bored and reluctant are those who most likely, have been in the industry for a while. Perhaps a little cynical, a little jaded or perhaps just plain tired. You can spot them in the wild hanging in pods, trolling the expo and trying to secure all the cool giveaway stuff (but not actually talk to a vendor). They will be the ones complaining about how there isn’t anything new to learn and making sweeping statements about how the conference is too big, too noisy, not enough of this or too much of that. You see the lack of hope, drive, and curiosity in their eyes.
People, there were 300 sessions in 3.5 days. THREE HUNDRED. Surely, a person can find something that is remotely interesting or applicable to what you do. There is always something to learn, always something new to try. Stuff that does not require a lot in money or resources, just your time to research, discover and experiment. This group leaves me frustrated. Maybe they need to find a new passion, but this requires curiosity. The bored and reluctant group lost the curious streak a while ago, hopefully, they can find their way back.
Excited and Curious
Then there’s my favorite group, the excited and curious. Now, the excited and curious can also be in the dazed and confused group. The difference is that they may be confused, but they will wander into a session anyway just for the heck of it, because you just never know. They crack me up. Easily identifiable because they look like they are on caffeine overload, wildly gesturing and armed with tablet and notebooks. They can be found in the wild in the bookstore snapping up the books of their favorite presenter, or those that will help them do their jobs better and in line for the book signing.
You can spot them at the networking events still talking about the sessions and what they learned. They are ones at lunch and dinner sharing notes, ideas, and in general trying to figure out a way to keep the passion alive after they leave. They are connecting via LinkedIn, Twitter and Snapchatting away! They want to share with EVERYONE!
Curious and Seasoned
I suppose I fall into the curious and seasoned. Having been around the ATD ICE block a time or two, I know how to plan my conference (and I wrote a course on how you can plan yours) and I know what to expect. The curious and seasoned know to take an aisle seat in any session for the quick escape – we know that if this session doesn’t rock our world there is another out there that will. The curious and seasoned always has a Plan B. You can spot them in the wild easily, they have no trouble plopping down with strangers at lunch and asking, “What did you see that was cool, new and interesting?” They are the ones walking with authority…follow them, they know where they are going and it’s usually to 1) Coffee 2) A great session or 3) The best networking events with frosty adult beverages. The curious and seasoned will happily help the excited and curious find their way. No man left behind!
My goal was to try to find new people to talk with and hear their stories. There was the lady from India, who is Muslim. She anticipated she might have issues getting into the country but getting to this conference was important to her. She ended up being pulled aside for a very short period of time, having her social accounts checked and her bags searched – but she says it was worth it. She wanted to be in Atlanta with her peers, needed and craved the interaction and skill sharpening. That’s dedication. (Which kinda makes me even more frustrated with the bored and reluctant group.)
Let’s Talk Keynote Speakers!
So, what did I take away this year? This year I was busy doing the Learning Rebels thang. As mentioned I hosted a one-day preconference session (Microlearning in MicroTime) and I also had a regular 60 minute session. The session was about how to create a microlearning plan, how to work that plan, how to deliver on that plan. A little humblebrag – the room sat 300 people and was maxed out. Sure, I’d like to think it was because they wanted to hear from me, but reality tells me that it’s because people need the tools, the drive, and the know-how. The fact that Tony Bingham spent about 10 minutes in the opening session talking about the importance of microlearning didn’t hurt either. So instead of attending some sessions, I spent a lot of extra time making sure people were going to get what they expected. That being said, my main takeaways this year had to be the keynotes.
This is why the Monday opening keynote really spoke to me. Astronauts, who are not only brothers but also twins, Mark and Scott Kelly, gave the opening keynote. One of the twins, (please forgive for not taking note of which one) in particular had trouble in school. He just made it out of high school and actually applied and got into the wrong university. While strolling along campus he discovered the bookstore, he wasn’t sure why he went in, books weren’t his thing…he pulled a book off the shelf that had a red, white and blue cover. It was a book about space travel. He read it. He was hooked. It was the spark he needed to work hard and chase a dream. In his words, he had serious aptitude issues. Nevertheless, he practiced, he was persistent, he set small goals to achieve, and he determined that it was time to move.
His message was that it’s easy to do the simple stuff, cracking the code on the hard stuff…well, that’s something else. What I took away from the Kelly brothers is that we all need support, but ultimately it’s up to us to keep our eye on the ball. We know the easy way around creating training programs, and it’s not a coincidence that the programs that are rushed and not thought out are the ones that fail. The hard thing to do is to question. The hard thing to do is to challenge. The hard thing to do is to think differently and then act differently. We need more of that mindset in our industry.
One of the Irish Tenors, Ronan Tynan, gave the closing keynote on Wednesday. He also experienced extreme challenges in life, having made the decision at a young age to amputate both his legs at the knee. His inspirational story here. He left me with this thought: We cannot be what we are meant to be by remaining who we are. (tweet this) Most importantly, was the message that we have all been successful at something. Somewhere at some time, we have all blazed a trail for another person in our lives, remember this. Keep this knowledge in the front of your mind, and continue to help other people succeed. Provide encouragement, understanding, and empathy. We never know what is happening with people. Your little nugget of encouragement, casually given, may mean the world to the person on the receiving end. How can we do better to support each other?
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This closing keynote ended with Ronan Tynan singing a rousing rendition of “Hallelujah” you didn’t have to be a spiritual person to feel moved, by both the combination of his message and the singing. It made me want to be the best version of who I can be. I hope it inspired others in the same way. What a great way to close a conference!
The closing of any convention is the parting of new and old friends. We don’t say “good-bye”, we say, “see you next year”.
So, my new and old friends – I’ll see you next year in San Diego. In the meantime, go take over the world.
Learning Rebel Extras!
Click here to view my presentation for the ATD ICE MicroLearning in MicroTime ATD Session
Click here to view information for the one-day microlearning clinic
Congratulations to Katherine T. and Amanda P the winners of Mays book giveaway: The Art and Science of Training, by Elaine Biech