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Learning, Leading, and Learning Some More at ALC

10/31/2013 2:53 PM | Meloney Dosunmu


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 other participants.

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 daring concept!

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 coming year!

Warm regards,

Martha Teel, VP of Programs & Events

ATD Eastern PA Chapter
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