I’m packing my suitcase to head to ATD in San Diego, May 6th-9th. ATD is one of my favorite events of the year and this time, I get to arrive by train because it’s just a couple hours from my hometown. It’s a great time to meet up with my tribe—fellow lifelong learners who really care about bringing out the best in others. This year has record registrations so I’ll get to meet even more people from around the world.
As you may know, I research the brain science of success and I can promise you that while we may seem very diverse on the outside (and I LOVE that diversity), on the inside we are remarkably the same. So for me, ATD is always a time of feeling connected to people from all kinds of organizations, cultures, and regions as we come together to figure out how to be even better at helping others.
ATD is huge so I have some tips and strategies for getting the most from your conference experience. Please reply/comment with some of yours!
1. Focus in on your 3 key goals for the next 12 months.
ATD is a massive event with hundreds of sessions and over 400 vendors. It can be a bit overwhelming to have that many choices so by focusing on your 3 key goals, you will be able to narrow the many awesome selections to those that will most serve you in the coming months. You can use the great online conference planner and ATD Events App to mark your choices and juggle all the things that will compete for your attention. See thought leaders who will give you new things to think about, check out vendors and products in the Expo, and pick up books/resources in the ATD Store that will support your learning in the months to come.
2. Stay on top of important announcements.
This year is different from previous ATDs because President Obama is keynoting on Monday morning. This has shifted the schedule (Networking Night is Monday) and also brings heightened security and some new rules. So be prepared by reading through the great announcements the ATD staff have prepared to help us have the best experience ever.
3. Introduce yourself to strangers every day.
You are surrounded by your tribe and us learning/talent pros are a friendly bunch. I can’t think of any other event where you can introduce yourself to a complete stranger and within 2 minutes realize you have so much in common. So introduce yourself to new people every day and you will quickly have a global network of colleagues with whom you can connect throughout the year. If you see me, please come up and say hello! My red hair makes me easy to spot in a crowd and I will love meeting you. You’ll find me in sessions, walking through the Expo, and at the Networking Night.
4. Pack your conference bag with your essentials.
That looks different for each of us but from past experience, I know to have a refillable water bottle, some snacks like nuts or a protein bar, phone+charger, my badge and ID, business cards, mints/gum, and comfy walking shoes (Hello Sketchers!) because all that walking on carpet-covered cement is hard on the bod. This year, I’ll also be carrying my new bookmark that promotes my just-released book, Wired to Connect: The Brain Science of Teams and a New Model for Creating Collaboration and Inclusion. If you see me, ask for one cuz I’ll have them in my bag! I’ll also be doing an Author Meet & Greet on Tuesday at 12:30 pm in the ATD Store. If you want more ideas for what to bring in your bag, check out this great post by Shannon Tipton.
5. Take a break!
Even though I am an extreme extrovert, I can get overwhelmed by all the things to see and do. So I make a point of finding a quiet little corner every day and grounding myself with a 10-minute meditation app on my phone. For you, it might be listening to music, chatting with friends, or taking a walk outside. California is beautiful this time of year… well, actually, it’s beautiful all year, so get outside and take in the sunshine and palm trees. I just read Dan Pink’s new book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing and his research aligns with my own. We learn more and focus better when we take breaks. In fact, the research indicates these guidelines get you the most restoration from your breaks:
- Something beats nothing (so even 5 mins is better than not taking a break)
- Moving beats stationary (so get up and get going)
- Social beats solo (it’s more restorative, even for introverts)
- Outside beats inside (that’s easy in California)
- Fully detached beats semi-detached (so leave that phone in your bag and just let your brain take a full break)
6. Have at least 3 options for every session.
I know I told you to focus in on your goals, and I stand by that advice, but I also recommend that you have choices for every time slot. As much as I would love to say that every session is going to be awesome, some will just miss the mark for you. Time is precious at ATD so if a session is not your thing, quietly slip out and pop to your next option (slipping in quietly too). I’m doing 3 talks this year (details listed below)—I hope you will come to mine. And that brings me to evaluations.
7. Complete your evaluations.
They are easy to do and as a speaker, I really value the feedback I get from my tribe. It helps me improve and grow, and it helps the conference get better each year too. Of course, we all love compliments but we value constructive critiques as well so please take the time to do evaluations (found at http://atdconference.td.org/About/For-Attendees).
8. Thank the ATD staff and volunteers.
ATD is lovingly put on every year by a hardworking, dedicated staff that arrived a week before we get there and are there long after we leave. The staff is augmented by a great team of volunteers who are eager to help. So take the time to thank them for putting on this amazing event. I hear they like chocolate too.
9 & 10. Fill in your own blank_________________________.
What are your best ideas for attending professional conferences in general or ATD ICE in particular? Share them in the comment box. If you need some other great ideas, check out this post by LearnGeek and this one by ATD.
I hope you’ll consider coming to my sessions. I have listed my schedule below and I would love to see you in the audience. Wishing you safe travels to San Diego—see you soon!
Here’s where you’ll find me in addition to the keynotes:
M106 – Wired to Become: The Neuroscience of Purpose | Mon. May 7 – 1:00 PM – 2:15 PM | Room: Ballroom 20D
Purpose is the driving force that gives our lives meaning. Humans are wired for a purpose; in fact, recent discoveries in neuroscience offer a fascinating look at what motivates us to become our best selves. The ability to align purpose is what distinguishes the most effective leaders from the rest, and purpose is at the heart of engagement, productivity, and retention. It’s no wonder that organizations that know how to harness the power of purpose thrive and excel while their peers falter or fail. Discover the latest research about the brain science of purpose and why it’s such a powerful force. You’ll learn how you can leverage purpose to create a better work environment, more engaged employees, more effective leaders, and a positive culture that attracts and retains top talent. You’ll leave with tips and strategies for weaving purpose into a wide range of talent initiatives. The session will be repeated Wednesday, May 9th | 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM | Room: 15. Note: The repeat session is 60 minutes so has 15 mins less content than the Monday session.
Networking Night | Mon. May 7 – 7:00 PM | Party on the Pier aboard the USS Midway.
Author Meet & Greets | Tue. May 8 – 12:30 PM – 1:00 PM | ATD Bookstore
Stop by the ATD Store to meet authors, have your books signed, and network with fellow conference-goers. This is a great opportunity to pick-up your favorite author’s books including my new book, Wired To Connect.
Ice Cream Break | Tues May 8 – 2:00-3:00 PM | Because who doesn’t love free ice cream.
TU54EXD – Create a Growth Mindset Culture: 4 High-Performing Organizations Share Their Success | Tue. May 8 – 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM | Room: 24B
Your organization is up to big things, and talent development is vital for achieving your goals. Building a culture of learning based on the growth mindset will yield many benefits, including increased performance and productivity, enhanced employee engagement, and retention of your top talent. You may already have a culture of learning, but it may not be driving the results your talent is capable of and your organization needs. In this session, you’ll discover the neuroscience of potential and how to unlock people’s natural hunger to learn and improve. Join the speaker to find out how to design a robust and positive culture of learning that enables continuous improvement. You’ll also hear from a panel of senior learning managers and talent developers from Comcast, Domino’s Pizza, Cox Automotive, and Bayada Home Health Care, who will share how they are empowering employees to reach their full potential by creating a culture where personal and business growth align.
W313 – Wired to Become: The Neuroscience of Purpose | Wed. May 9 – 1:30 PM – 2:35 PM | Room: 15
Note: This repeat session is 60 minutes so has 15 mins less content than the Monday session.