ATD 2019: The Highlights

10,000 professionals, 400 speakers, and 300 sessions - what an incredible few days we spent at ATD 2019. If you couldn't make it or are thinking of attending next year, we've rounded up our highlights from ATD 2019 to give you the low down on the event!

ATD is the largest event for talent development professionals in the world. Attendees come to learn about the latest trends and technologies in the industry and come away with some guidance on what the future holds for talent development. This year, the conference was held in Washington DC from May 20-23, so we headed down there to exhibit at the show. 
 
ATD Conference 2019
 

Day 1 - Everybody Gets an Opening Speech from Oprah

ATD Opening Remarks by Oprah Winfrey

Follow your gut, get good leaders, and be of service—just some of the many wisdoms from Oprah Winfrey’s opening keynote address. “Good leadership is everything,” she said. She spoke about how you can have all the right people in place, all the right skills and resources, but that if the leadership isn't right, the other elements will crumble no matter their quality. The anecdotal speech pertained to a lot of Oprah's personal experience with leadership, both good and bad, and made for an emotional and inspiring impact.
 

Extraordinary Learning Strategy - Deardra Welcome

What makes a learning strategy extraordinary? This was the core topic of Deardra Welcome's “Drive Employee Engagement Through the Roof With an Extraordinary Learning Strategy”. The session leader from Concerning Learning says that an extraordinary learning strategy is "a comprehensive plan that’s driven by the business and led by a highly skilled talent development team who maximizes organizational learning opportunities for increased performance.” So many L&D departments are overrun with "tick the box" learning that this point hit home pretty deeply with the audience, who could be seen agreeing with her assessment of training departments being under resourced, under budgeted, and struggling to demonstrate added value. Welcome described how a healthy learning culture can improve employee engagement and therefore organizational performance in turn. 
 

Day 2 - AI, VR, and Upskilling

Learning in the Age of Immediacy - Brandon Carson

As with most industries, digital technology has become an essential part of the L&D tool belt in recent years, and all signs point to this trend continuing, especially with recent developments in AI and VR learning. But technology can sometimes come with its own drawbacks that must be managed. This was the theme of Brandon Carson's session, "Learning in the Age of Immediacy: How the Digital Transformation Transforms Training". As the Director of Learning at Delta Airlines, Carson identified potholes such as the overuse of training content, useless data and lack of insight, and overcrowding of technologies with little time to use them as some of the key technology pain points for small L&D departments. 
 

Business Learning Advisors: Impactful Upskilling

It's something we have witnessed with our own clients here at Synapse and it's a point that was reinforced by Kevin Metsers of Hewlett Packard and Marie Wehrung of Rice University in "Business Learning Advisors: Impactful Upskilling". More and more instructional designers are shifting their focus towards learning consultancy within the organization, whether by choice or due to an industry shift in how training is now being designed. The forum leaders identified the potential need for a new role in light of this development: the Business Learning Advisor. It was an interesting take on navigating the change of roles and skills in the industry. A common gap that is identified is a lack of alignment between learning services and organizational goals, one that could be remedied with the creation of this new intermediary role between business and learning.
 

Day 3 - Gamification and Collaboration

Beyond Gamification - Karl Kapp

Karl Kapp of Bloomsburg University led a fascinating, interactive session on gamification: "Beyond Gamification: Think Like a Game Designer to Create Engaging, Meaningful Instruction." His session led attendees through tangible methods for creating training which engages learners by earning their interest and helping them retain knowledge effectively.
 

Office 365: Unravel the Mystery - Mike Song

For some time, collaborating on files at work has been harder than it should be. In his session “Office 365: Unravel the Mystery and Get More Done!” Mike Song, from GetControl, introduced attendees to the many features within Microsoft Office 365 that employees and employers alike should be leveraging.
 
If you've checked out any of the resources we have developed here at Synapse, you'll know we are big fans of effective collaboration. In "Office 365: Unravel the Mystery and Get More Done!", Mike Song of GetControl.net walked the session attendees through the abundance of features available in Office 365 that users should be leveraging to achieve more effective collaboration. Regardless of whether you use Office 365 in your organization, the session gave some interesting insights on why, with so many tools available, collaboration continues to be an organization-wide pain point.
 

Synapse Exhibit

Of course, it wasn't just about the amazing sessions for us at ATD - we were also exhibiting our Learning Design System from our Synapse booth! We had a blast giving demos, chatting with others in the industry, and gaining fantastic insight into the challenges faced by L&D leaders in their organizations. With learning being such a core component of talent development, it came as no surprise to us that attendees were open and eager to learn about all the latest developments and trends in the industry - as we were, too!
 
If you didn't make it to ATD this time, we would highly recommend signing up for the 2020 session in Denver. We'll see you there! 
ATD 2019 Highlights
 

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