They say that travel broadens the mind, and my recent trip to the United States has certainly done that!
I was fortunate enough, last month, to be one of the 9,000 delegates from 87 countries attending the American Society for Training and Development's annual international conference and exhibition - ASTD2013 - held this year in Dallas, Texas.
The event was enormous - eight days of learning, more than 300 conference sessions across 14 different tracks, 368 companies filling the exhibition hall, not to mention all the exhibition seminars, networking opportunities, and other events that were also going on.
It was so large that, at times, I was at a bit of a loss as to what session to attend, or what stand to look at, next! It was a bit overwhelming but in a very positive way; the choice of high-quality learning was such that I came away after four days feeling that I had learned so much but that I could have done so much more. I wished I could have cloned myself until there were enough of me to attend all the sessions and seminars that I wanted to attend, while simultaneously visiting every single exhibitor!
I met a lot of very interesting, enthusiastic, knowledgeable people, attended a lot of really interesting conference sessions and had some very worthwhile conversations. A few of the highlights for me were a tremendous session on the first day, examining Google's research into the effectiveness of massive online open courses; a very informative session by the e-Learning Guild' s David Kelly on curating; a brilliant keynote speech by creativity guru Sir Ken Richardson, who essentially spent an hour chatting to his audience as though they were old friends while delivering a very powerful message about the importance of combining aptitude with passion to achieve success at work; a very interesting conversation about mobile learning on the NetDimensions stand; seeing DPG plc's Robert Wagner resplendent in a pair of Union Jack trousers, and learning how ROI can be effectively put into action in a case study from Turkey.
The level of delegate participation in the conference was impressive, whether it was the straightforward approach of asking for a show of hands at regular intervals or proactively answering people's questions throughout a session or more structured exercises to get participants actively involved. It ensured we were all engaged, attentive, learning, meeting people and exchanging ideas, views and knowledge.
The subject areas were not new - we're familiar with issues such as measurement and ROI, mobile learning, engagement, leadership development and the changing role of L&D here in the UK - but ASTD2013 enabled me to see them from a different perspective, which in itself is a great learning opportunity.
I also liked the buzz in the exhibition hall. There was an energy and a willingness to engage, on the parts of both exhibitors and attendees, that was refreshing.
I had a great time - thanks to everyone who made it such a memorable week.
Elizabeth Eyre, Editor
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