I’d like to say thank you to all of the members of the
Eastern PA chapter for sending me to the ASTD Annual Leadership Conference
(ALC) in Arlington, VA last weekend. ALC provides a terrific opportunity for
professional development and networking, and I always come away feeling
excited, energized, and ready to try out some of the great ideas I learned from
My favorite session at the 2013 conference was about how
to create a hands-on conference. The session was led by Bob Reiss and Scarlett
Meadows, both members of the Greater Cincinnati chapter. Together, they planned
and implemented three conferences that were hugely successful and profitable – and yet did not
have a single keynote speaker, presenter, or breakout session. Wow, what a
Instead of a traditional conference format, they created
memorable experiences that focused on hands-on learning for their participants.
Likewise, their ALC session was also memorable for the same reasons. The group of
Workplace Learning and Performance (WLP) folks at my table brainstormed some
ideas for a Career Development conference. We discussed experiential
learning, story-telling, and what makes a conference successful.
Here are some of the ideas that stood out for me:
- Create a cross-generational mentoring program so
that experienced WLP professionals can mentor new WLP professionals who are
just coming into the field and who can in return offer training and insights
into new technology trends.
- Conduct speed-training sessions where
participants can rotate through 30-minute sessions and do hands-on exercises to
learn a new technical skill, a software shortcut, etc.
- Invite vendors of WLP products and services to
provide hands-on training on topics such as social media, training videos,
rapid instructional design, leadership training, change management, etc.
- Get sponsors who have something to sell to the
WLP community, so they can target their message to the appropriate audience.
- Offer HR credits for your conference.
- Instead of a traditional conference, host a
technology showcase (not for sales purposes), and invite vendors to demonstrate
their products and services.
We know that conferences are very challenging to plan and pull
off successfully. A case in point: Last year’s Eastern PA conference had to be
cancelled due to a combination of too few pre-registered participants and
inclement weather (a.k.a., Hurricane Sandy).
The 2014 board will be discussing whether a traditional conference
can meet the needs of WLP professionals in the Lehigh Valley, or whether we
should try an unconventional approach. Look for more information during the
Martha Teel, VP of
Programs & Events