Through the fortune of geography and the opportunity to work as a volunteer, I was able to attend the ATD Conference in Denver this past summer. Usually I like to share my top takeaways, but because of the enormity of this conference I had to go the level of top 5 sessions, not just top 5 ideas. Here they are, in non-ranked order.
1. Storytelling is the Secret Sauce Doug Stevenson, author of “Story Theater Method” echoed Chip and Dan Heath when he opened with this idea: facts fade, data gets dumped, but stories stick. I was already a believer in the power of stories to teach and move people to action but Doug taught me some new things. First, don’t tell a story just because someone told you stories are good. It has to be the right story, at the right time, for the right audience. Context is king. Secondly, as a presenter, you should pay attention to your role as an actor/performer when you step in front of an audience. Just where you stand on a stage imparts meaning.
2. Effective Virtual Training/Webinars led by David Smith, from Virtual Gurus. David recommends Adobe Connect as the best webinar tool and I found that reassuring, since I know the strength of that software and use it almost daily. He gave me some ideas of elements to add to my webinars such as an intro video (to be played as people enter the virtual room) that shows attendees how to use the interactive tools. Another recommendation was to avoid using yes/no true/false questions in polls, rather just have attendees respond using the agree/disagree buttons to save time. He strongly advises for using a producer to handle tech issues, and only using the webcam at the very beginning of a webinar to establish presence, then turning it off to avoid distractions.
3. Awesome Powerpoint Tricks by Wendy Gates Corbett & Richard Goring from BrightCarbon. This demo went at breakneck speed leaving we in the audience dazzled, yet yearning for slower paced step by step instructions. The main concept is to create visual sequences in Powerpoint that look like detailed animations focused on clearly communicating the most important messages. I could see how most of us could develop creative animations, given the time.
4. Using Social Media and Online Learning Communities by Daniel Jones. Daniel gave me some new ideas such as using social media before, during and after a course. This aligns well with the concept of ongoing learning that doesn’t just start and stop within course deadlines. He touched on ingredients to create a successful online community: finding people who want to share, have something of value that makes them want to come back to the community area, and have a community manager who keeps the discussions on point, keeping it positive, and asking questions to spark discussions. Daniel also gave me a new idea for webinars-seeking out resident subject matter experts to share their knowledge, instead of waiting for people to approach me to host webinars, I approach them first.
5. Biology, Sociology of Learning and Leading, keynote address by Simon Sinek. If you’d like to see him talk on this topic, check out his TED Talk here. Simon showed how our biological chemicals-specifically endorphins, dopamines, seratonins and oxytocins-give us powerful motivators to act in certain ways. We must be aware of these to recognize what drives us and other to action. Another factor is the influence of others, especially leaders, on our ability to work well and persevere. Simon believes that leadership is a choice and involves personal sacrifice. By building trust people will follow you. Many of these ideas seem self-evident, but he added some more that serve as a personal challenge to me: Anyone can lead. It’s a daily practice. We can lead by exercising selflessness, even when no one sees you. This sounds like a bold, strong ethical ethos that I’d like to strive toward. In closing, he said, “I urge you to take care of each other. If you take care of each other, I guarantee we will change the world.” Let’s do it!
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