This week I attended ASTD’s International Conference andExpo (ICE) at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, CO. It has been three or four years since I last attended ICE (it was in Atlanta that year). It is such a big event; it is just too overwhelming to attend every year. But I find it valuable to go every couple of years. The snapshots over time give you a better sense of what is really progressing and changing in the learning industry.
Here are some random thoughts and reactions that stuck with me from this year’s conference:
The Learning & Development profession is strong and growing – there were about 10,000 attendees at this year’s conference. The Wells Fargo Theater started filling up well before ASTD President Tony Bingham took to the stage to welcome everyone, and they were still coming in while Jim Collins was delivering his excellent and inspiring keynote presentation.
The Learning & Development profession is becoming well…more professional – I spoke to many people who had or were completing advanced degrees in Adult Education, Instructional Systems or the like. Many academic institutions were represented at the expo enticing conference attendees to explore their programs. There was also a good showing of people who have obtained the relatively new CPLP credential.
This conference is international with a capital “I” – my guesstimate is that about 20% of the attendees were from outside the US. Kudos to ASTD for setting up the “Global Village” networking room which was often packed during the session breaks.
Everyone’s conference experience is unique – with somewhere between 350-400 sessions to choose from, everyone has the ability to create their own conference-within-a-conference based on their own needs and interests. I spent most of my time in sessions about mobile and social learning.
Technology rules – there was a notable difference in technology usage from my last conference experience in Atlanta. Everyone had mobile devices, many people tablets, and ASTD provided a great app for the event that allowed you plan your day, read speaker’s bios, grab presentation materials, complete evaluations, take notes, and follow the twitter stream (#ASTD2012).
Networking rules – it was great to meet some of my twitter connections in person for the first time. It was also create connecting with fellow members of the ASTD Forum, and to meet and make new contacts.
Since this is my blog, here are some “Mike Awards” that I’d like to bestow related to the conference:
Most practical session award – Jane Bozarth (@JaneBozarth): Social Media for Trainers. Jane did a great job covering many ways to easily incorporate social media tools in training.
Sleeper session award – Joe Saturnino: Implementing Mobile Learning Applications. I didn’t know Joe or what to expect going into this session so I was pleasantly surprised. He went through the what, why and how of mobile learning and provided great ideas on things that are easily doable.
The best session I did not attend award – Allison Rossett (@arossett) and Frank Nguyen: The Yin and Yang of Informal and Formal Learning. I had the opportunity to read the cases and try out their evaluation tool prior to this session so I did not attend, but I know it was a good one. Allison is always informative and entertaining.
Most amazing content sharing award – David Kelly (@LnDDave): for curating and creating this treasure trove of conference resources.
The oddest surprise award – goes to the Colorado Convention Center escalator that goes to and from the expo floor. It laughs at you while you ride it. No, really.