10 Things To Do Before (and During!) the ATD International Conference & Expo in Washington, DC - #ATD2019

Author: Britt Andreatta
Posted On: May 15, 2019

I’m packing my suitcase to head to DC for ATD, May 19-22. ATD is one of my favorite events of the year. It's a great time to meet up with my tribe—fellow lifelong learners who really care about bringing out the best in others. ATD offers an opportunity to connect with people from all kinds of organizations, cultures, and regions as we come together to figure out how to be even better at helping others.

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.

ATD is huge so I have some tips and strategies for getting the most from the 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 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. The app will also keep you updated on important announcements. And, you can do keyword searches on the sessions to find those addressing your key goals.

2. 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 (make at least one stop at the Global Village) and you will quickly have an international 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’ll love meeting you. You’ll find me in sessions, walking through the Expo, and at the Networking Night. Oh, and the ice cream break! Yum.


3. 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!). My new favorite is an essential oil spray. Gives me an energy boost every time.

4. Check out ALL aspects of the conference.

Don’t miss out on the amazing keynoters—Oprah Winfrey, Seth Godin, and Eric Whitacre—who are sure to inspire you. Learn from industry thought leaders to up your own game. Want to see all the latest tools and services to help you rock your role? Check out vendors and products in the Expo. Some of my favorites are Bridge/Practice and Pixvana (I love these tools), and LinkedIn Learning (check out my courses). Discover what drives your career and check out Bridge's Career Driver Cards at booth #2119! And pick up some books/resources in the ATD Store to support your learning in the months to come.

5. 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 looking forward to seeing Elliott MasieRick LozanoJulie DirksenCristina Hall, and Karl Kapp.

I'm also doing 3 talks this year (details listed below)—I hope you will come to mine. And that brings me to evaluations.

6. 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 here).

7. 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. According to Dan Pink's book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, 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 (May is a lovely time of year)
  • Fully detached beats semi-detached (so leave that phone in your bag and just let your brain take a full break)

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. Get out and see some of the US capital.

This year, my family is in tow so they will be trekking around town while I’m trekking around the Convention Center. Check out the ATD 2019’s webpage on attractions in DC. Some that I highly recommend are the Smithsonian museums, the National Zoo (pandas!), the Spy Museum, and the Holocaust Museum (but give yourself time to process this intense experience).

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 so we can benefit from our tribal knowledge.

Wishing you safe travels to DC—see you soon!




Here's where you'll find me:


TU104 - Wired to Grow 2.0: Critical Updates in the Brain Science of Learning

Tue, May 21 | 10:00 AM - 11:15 AM | Room: Ballroom A, Convention Center

The neuroscience of learning has evolved, adding new understanding to how the brain learns, builds memories, processes failure, and shifts behavior. And technology has transformed what's possible in learning if it's used correctly. Join the speaker to update your understanding of the brain science of learning and practice. You'll become more effective in your role, no matter which element of the learning cycle you touch. SESSION WILL BE REPEATED WEDNESDAY W113

Book Signing - Author Meet & Greet

Tue, May 21 | 12:30 PM -1:00 PM | ATD Store

T63EXS - Creating Brain-Savvy Managers: Weaving Brain Science Into Manager Training

Tue, May 21 | 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM | Room: 101, Convention Center

Neuroscience is transforming how talent professionals work. This session, led by Dr. Britt Andreatta, focuses on how we transfer insights from brain science to managers, who create most of the daily work experience for their employees. We'll look at the key concepts that every manager should know, and we'll explore several examples from highly effective manager programs. Leave this session with strategies and tools you can implement right away.

Networking Night

Tue, May 21 | 7:00 PM - 11:00 PM

Join talent professionals at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Throughout the museum, you will find a wide range of cuisines and live entertainment.

You must have a ticket to attend Networking Night. To purchase Networking Night tickets please go to the Networking Night Counter, located on the L Street Bridge. Tickets are available while supplies last.

Get Britt’s tips and strategies to rise to your potential.
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