10,000 participants, 400 speakers, 300 sessions and close to 200 vendors - this was the scene at the ATD 2016 Conference and Expo in Denver at the end of May, and yes, SwissVBS was there!
Given that this was our first time attending a conference of this magnitude, we were a little apprehensive at first. Was this the sort of event that a multitude of people escaped to each year convincing their bosses that it was truly valuable but really just looking for an excuse to hangout with 10,000 other very cool people, or were there really compelling leading edge solutions and philosophical discussions about the future of learning taking place that would reshape ones thinking and challenge assumptions about what is possible? I am happy to say that it was all of the above, and like anything, what you put into it is what you get out of it.
For SwissVBS, we went in full force. Six of us attended, we hosted a lunch & learn and had our newly polished booth displayed in all its glory with Swiss chocolates and all. After the glitz and hype faded, we were very pleased to discover that the hot topics we are passionate about are also resonating with numerous others in this space. The lunch & learn session we hosted on enabling the mobile workforce was attended by 120 participants, standing room only, and was laser focused on how to best support our employees in the field. Shifting the focus from the learning moment to the performance moment seems to be at the top of the list for many organizations. Indeed the questions on many peoples mind seem to be the following:
- How do we capitalize on the learning moment by ensuring that the performance moment is equally supported?
- How do we provide mobile reinforcement to assist with learning retention?
- How do we view learning as a journey and not an event?
- How can we redefine and re position our entire learning ecosystem to bring continual and meaningful value to the learner?
Needless to say, the lunch & learn was extremely successful. We were happy to share the stage with Microsoft and private L&D consultant who use to work at Lynda.com, to share our experiences and to learn from a very passionate and engaging audience.
The booth experience was also rewarding. While there were peaks and valleys in terms of traffic, the level and quality of conversations were exceptional. Once again, we found ourselves talking more and more about mobile reinforcement, how to overcome the forgetting curve, content solutions that were truly engaging and memorable, and how to equip our salesforce with the just-in-time tools they need to succeed. Add to that, the fact that we were positioned beside the affable and fun eLearning Brothers booth with their token Gene Simmons dude taking pictures with everyone, and another booth which brought a professional grade ping pong table to the event (something we at SwissVBS are very passionate about) and you have the perfect recipe for a truly memorable and worthwhile event.
It's great to see how we are all focused on how best to leverage technology, brain science and learning theories to continually enhance the learning experience and help our people excel and transform. Of course in many organizations progress is impeded or slowed due to legacy systems, tired content and old technology, but in general the will and drive to adapt and change with the times is there. While there is great innovation and desire in the industry, I think the real challenge before many of us is how to constantly keep the changing needs of the learner at the forefront of our solutions and to not blindly adopt and implement the latest flashy distraction or technological advance that shows up at our door. Change management, alignment with the Business, active involvement of IT and demonstrating true ROI will always need to be at the centre of our efforts to push the boundaries of what is possible in the learning and development space.
All in all this was a fantastic event and we are looking forward to solidifying and formalizing some of the great relationships that began there. Great things ahead!