If you were there at the LTEN Conference last week in Washington D.C. – well, you know how much fun it was.
If not – make a non-negotiable commitment to yourself to be at the 2017 event in Nashville, TN!
(by the way, you thought the Gaylord National was a spectacular sight? Wait until you see the Gaylord Opryland – if you’ve never been there before, your eyes will bug out of your head!)
My favorite part of every LTEN conference – and this year was my 20th – is seeing all the great colleagues and friends from both sides of the aisle (vendor/partner, and practitioner). It’s like a big class reunion, but with better food and official-looking badges.
(yes, that is Sue Iannone photo-bombing a selfie with Jim Page. This is becoming an annual “thing.” ;>)
Each year I write a blog post recapping the event, and this year, I’m glad to report that my theme is “happy days are here again.” Quite frankly, in recent years, there’s been a bit of a pall hovering over the conference, as the various disruptions in healthcare, the endless downsizings, and the uncertainty about the direction of LTEN as an organization all contributed to some feelings of anxiety and negativity. Did you notice that? Yet, this year, it seems like the cloud has lifted. The overall vibe was upbeat and positive. It’s not that all the questions about the future of our industry have been answered. I just think that maybe we’ve hit the rebound point as a professional community in our changing marketplace.
A touching element of the conference was the entry, into the LTEN Hall of Fame, of two of our now-deceased colleagues, Jerry Clor and Mack Thompson. Two leaders who have left behind that rarest of legacies: you may not be able to find anyone with a negative word about these beloved professionals (and true gentlemen). Their family members came up to receive plaques and were warmly welcomed by the LTEN community.
Other leaders, past and present, were there in force, to encourage their fellow training professionals. Mary Myers (who had her own patriotic marching band), Ian Kelly, and David Fortanbary did fine work on the stage serving as hosts and emcees. It was also great to see Kevin Kruse and Mike Capaldi, two important past leaders in LTEN who have helped shape the direction of the organization as we know it today.
(Mike C – bring the Dramamine next time!)
Keynotes were an interesting mix. Mel Robbins exceeded my mostly non-existent expectations (since I really didn’t know anything about her) – her talk was both interesting and practical. It was mostly about taking immediate action as a way to change habits. She got right down into the audience and drew us out of ourselves – a fun and dynamic speaker for sure. She also wears very sparkly shoes. Like, very. Very very sparkly.
The Sewa Beats drummers were quite entertaining – they injected a lot of energy into the crowd for their session. As a keynote element – nah, I don’t think so (the attempts to tie what they were doing to the science of training felt forced). HOWEVER – I have experienced Sewa Beats in a small-group team-building exercise, and for that, I highly recommend them – especially if you can also drag Ian Kelly on stage. It’s worth it just to see their infectious smiles…!
Walter Bond? Well, what can you say? Such a high-energy, funny, and open-hearted motivational speaker (and former NBA player). I loved what he had to say, and quite frankly, I’m still digesting and applying his message. He had the place rocking and rolling.
The short “TED”-like talks on the last day were a good idea, and went well. The Learning Labs over lunch in the exhibit hall were packed (definitely needed more room in those). The evening socials were great – lots of chances to network.
Oh, and this year we had our inaugural GxP training track (something John Constantine has been advocating for), and the response from the many who attended was quite positive. One of the workshop sessions was a forum to help map out a more focused Learning Leader track, to address the specific issues of those who are running departments. This is a very positive development.
And, the two areas where I historically have heard the most complaining in past years – exhibit hall traffic/productivity, and workshop quality – I just wasn’t hearing it this year. As I mentioned at the beginning, the overall climate seemed upbeat, and the vendors I spoke with were quite positive about their experience during the week. Plus, we had the bonus, being located in the commutable region of Washington DC, of gaining dozens of unexpected walk-in registrants. That was a nice problem to have!
The conference mobile app was excellent this year, by the way. It finally broke me of my dependence on paper. Go ahead, laugh – I’m still a late adopter on some things!
When I make client visits, I’m often asked, “So, what’s new out there?” For the past couple years, I’ve had to say, “Not much.” And, again, I didn’t see much that was new and exciting in the training world. I think we’re all still figuring out the roles of these new technologies we’ve tried to implement over the past 5 years. And, we’re constantly tinkering with the size and shape of learning experiences (like micro-learning). We’re still in the “do more with less” mode, so maybe we can do without shiny new objects for a little while longer!
OK, so how to improve the conference? Here’s my biggest idea for consideration (and it’s not original with me, nor is it brand new): I’m just not sure we need all the workshops to be 90 minutes in length. For some that have clear interactive elements, that’s fine – but I’d like to see us experiment with a creative mix of 90-minute, 45-minute, and 20-minute presentations. The current format excludes many potentially valuable topics and speakers. Also, by having a number of shorter sessions, we can potentially have some topics presented twice in the schedule – we all experience the conflict of overlapping sessions that are only presented once. Your thoughts?
Kudos, as always, to the LTEN crew who does such a great job putting on these events – Dawn, Christine, Tim, Nanette, Miki, and Gregg. And, special thanks to the very dedicated Board who put so much time and effort into the planning. We have a very special Society and brighter days are ahead, for sure!
Steve Woodruff, President of Impactiviti, is a Vendor Consultant and is occasionally referred to as the Mayor of LTEN! If you need vendor recommendations: AskSteve@impactiviti.com