How to Overcome Conference Challenges

‘Tis that time of year again, my friends…the ATD International Conference & Expo (some call it “ICE”) is coming up soon (less than 2 weeks away as I write this!), and I am simply giddy with excitement. I’m not ashamed to admit that one reason I’m giddy is because this year’s conference is in San Diego…here in Indiana, we can’t seem to kick the winter doom-and-gloom to the curb, so the delicious SoCal sun is beckoning! I’m also giddy because every year, this conference exceeds my expectations. The speakers and sessions are terrific, and I get to spend a few days learning and geeking out with some really awesome, smart, creative people.

(Lucky me!)

Top-notch events like ICE also make me reminisce about some of the not-so-excellent conferences I’ve attended over the years. Sometimes, the content missed the mark or the speakers were sub-par. Other times, logistical issues have plagued the entire event. Occasionally, I’ve simply felt out of place or disengaged for one reason or another. Fortunately, in my experience, the “hits” far outweigh the “misses.”

So what do you do if you attend a conference, and it’s a dud? You make some lemonade out of those plastic conference buffet centerpiece lemons! Here are a few tips:

If the sessions are irrelevant, boring or otherwise underwhelming:

  • Have a backup plan. When there are multiple breakout sessions in each timeslot, I try to mark more than one that seems to be of interest. After a few minutes, if a session is not meeting my expectations or is shaping up to be different than the description indicated, I quietly slip out and make my way to my backup choice. For big conferences like ICE, it’s important to map out a game plan in advance – there are dozens of sessions from which to choose in every time slot. So a little preparation can help you with this!
  • Chat it up. Take an opportunity before the session begins, during a small group discussion segment or as the session wraps up, to say hello to someone new. Ask why they chose that session….even if the content being delivered isn’t the greatest, perhaps you’ll make a connection with someone who wants to learn the same thing and you can discuss it on your own terms.

 

If you’re an introvert and you don’t enjoy “mingling” during networking events or cocktail receptions:

  • Quality over quantity. Personally, I’d much rather have 2-3 meaningful conversations than blitzing around a room swapping business cards all night. Seek out a familiar face (or find someone who looks equally uncomfortable!) and say hello. If you’re not a master at small talk, prepare yourself with a couple of safe, open-ended questions to get a conversation started.
  • Continue a conversation from earlier. Did you start a conversation with someone earlier in the day, only to be interrupted by the next scheduled session? Wrap up by asking the person, “I’d love to learn more about that project (or whatever). Will you be at the cocktail reception later?” — then make sure to seek him/her out!

 

If you find yourself disengaged during keynotes or general sessions:

  • Viva la hashtag. Sometimes, the best conference a-ha moments aren’t delivered by a speaker at all. Follow the event hashtag on Twitter to discover fascinating people and learn interesting facts, quotes and insights. Share your own thoughts and retweet your favorites to fuel the conversation!
  • Seek out ONE USEFUL NUGGET to apply in your role/life. Even when I haven’t been completely engaged in the session itself, I make an effort to find something that I can apply somehow. Maybe it’s taking the topic back to my team to get their opinion and start a discussion. Perhaps I just really like the presenter’s slide deck design and want to try their technique. Maybe the presenter’s viewpoint is the polar opposite of my own, and I get a little fired up…don’t get me started about the time a keynote (and well-respected industry leader) was bashing on 70:20:10, and I was presenting a breakout session later that day on leveraging 70:20:10 in onboarding to engage new employees. No, he didn’t realize that, and it certainly wasn’t intentional. But man…awkward.

 

Bottom line: Even the “meh” conferences can be salvaged. At the core, all conferences are wonderful opportunities to connect with like-minded colleagues, so take advantage of these chances to learn, share and grow with others! Like most things, we reap what we sow. If you go into the event thinking it will be miserable, you will be miserable. If you look for opportunities to make the most of it, you certainly will.

Your turn: What are your strategies for making the most out of conferences? Share a comment below – your advice can help your fellow conference-goers, rookies and seasoned attendees alike!

Fortunately, ICE is sure to be a killer event. Will I see you there? Drop me a note, connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn so we can catch up!

 


 

Looking for a few other conference-related posts? Check out these oldies-but-goodies!

3 Ways to Have a Really Bad Time at a Conference

How to Combat Inspiration Overload After a Conference

 

 

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New Blog Series | Talent Marketing Essentials

“If everything in your toolbox is a hammer, then everything will look like a nail.” – unknown

I don’t know who originally said this, but I heard a sales trainer quote it at least 10 years ago, and the saying has stuck with me ever since.

It’s so true…in the Business of Talent, we need to have a versatile set of tools ready to use to help us connect and engage with our various participants in training, employee engagement, employee development, onboarding, and other programs that our teams lead.

I had the privilege of spending some time in my career working for a digital/email marketing startup – I developed and delivered training for thousands of clients on six continents during my time there.

(Still, and will always be, one of the best jobs I ever had!)

That said, I am not a marketer by trade. Early in my career (nearly 20 years ago – yowza!), I cut my teeth facilitating a LOT of instructor-led training sessions. I was able to leverage those skills when I joined the startup and learn from our clients, many of which were using our software to implement some pretty sophisticated marketing strategies. I was thrilled to get a behind-the-scenes look at how these clients – from Microsoft to Coca-Cola to Spanx – were doing it.

And there, I learned enough to be dangerous.

It’s been several years since I moved on to the next step in my career, but I have kept an eye on trends in the digital marketing space….and have been utilizing modified versions of those strategies in my own talent programs. And it makes a difference!

Bottom line: It’s important for all of us, as leaders in the Business of Talent, to occasionally think like marketers and get better at communicating effectively with our program participants, leaders and stakeholders. Because, at the end of the day, that’s all it is: Communicating effectively and with a purpose.

Even if you don’t have a fancy Marketing degree.

Even if you don’t geek out over things like email open rates and click-through rates.

Even if you don’t “do” social media…or your organization blocks it.

 

My next few posts will be dedicated to sharing HR/Talent-friendly versions of a few simple marketing campaigns that you can replicate in your organizations. And you won’t need a lot of fancy software to make it happen, I promise!

To start, if you subscribe to this blog, you’ll receive a complimentary workbook all about the first strategy…How to Create a “Drip Campaign” Email Sequence to Communicate with New Employees. If you have never thought about leveraging the power of sequential, informative, helpful emails as a pre-start learning tool in your onboarding program, this handy little resource will be a game-changer for you!

If you already subscribe, you’ll be receiving an email with a copy.  If you haven’t yet subscribed to phase(two)learning, please do….I’d love connect with you, you’ll receive a copy of the workbook!

Join the phase(two)nation tribe today!

 

3 Foolproof Ways to Blow New Employees Away on their First Day

Another new year is upon us, friends! 365 blank calendar squares where we can make a difference, add value, build connections and drive results. The promise and possibility of that is motivating to me, despite years and years of abandoned new habits and rarely worn gym clothes, since I’m not much of a “resolution” kind of gal.

If your team is like my team, the new year also means gearing up for the first New Employee Orientation of the year. Will you be kicking off 2018 with the same-old-same-old orientation experience, or is this the year you make some changes?

If you are looking to ease into some changes to your organization’s onboarding program, something that will generate a positive reaction (without breaking the bank!), a simple place to look is the welcome experience your new employees receive on their first day. Here are 3 incredibly simple….like, “Why didn’t I think of that?!” simple…tactics to make your new employees’ first day memorable and make them excited to return for Day #2.

Foolproof Tactic #1: Roll out the red carpet…..literally.

When you make a hiring decision, it is crucial to remember that the decision is two-sided. Your new employee is also choosing YOU, including the hiring manager, the team he will be working alongside, the role/title, the organizational culture and the work itself – only having seen or experienced a tiny bit of it before his first day. Help put his mind at ease from the moment he steps foot in your lobby, and confirm that he made the right decision by accepting your offer.

The concept of “rolling out the red carpet” may be cliche, but it is long-associated with top tier events – movie premieres, high society galas and other glamorous gatherings. Giving your new employees the VIP treatment is a fun way to ease first-day jitters and bring a smile to his face.

And the best part? You can order one on Amazon today and have it rolled out before the new year! Check it out:

https://www.amazon.com/Hollywood-Themed-Carpet-Runner-Decoration/dp/B006U3ZRPE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1514579129&sr=8-2&keywords=red+felt+carpet+runner

 

Foolproof Tactic #2: Involve your C-suite (a little or a lot)

Even the busiest executives should have some face time with your newest team members. Even a 15-minute meet-and-greet session sends a message to new employees that your leaders support onboarding, are committed to their immersion and success and are eager to get acquainted with them, which is an important factor in new employee engagement.

Granted, in our global culture, remote onboarding may prevent some, perhaps all, face-to-face encounters. Here are several ways to involve your senior leaders, both in person and from afar:

  • Kick off new employees’ first day with coffee and/or breakfast with your CEO while s/he shares his career story and provides a welcome and company overview.
  • Record a short video of your CEO or other key executive in advance welcoming new employees to the team and text it to them one hour before their official start time. Update the video annually or as specific initiatives/goals/success stories evolve.
  • Have your executive hand-deliver a name tag, uniform, or fun swag items with a handshake and a warm welcome.
  • With permission, include a stop in your executive wing on a building tour.
  • Invite the CEO to participate in a Google Hangout/Skype chat with new remote employees on their first day.
  • Leave a handwritten card on the new employee’s desk (or mail it to a remote employee’s home to arrive on his/her first day).

 

Foolproof Tactic #3: Make a game of it.

Interactive learning games can be an extraordinary way to engage new employees, build connections and create a memorable environment. Here are a few ideas, based on simple mainstream games, that might jump-start your creativity. Need more inspiration or want to develop something more customized? Check out the book Play to Learn by Sharon Boller and Karl Kapp…so good!

  • Was it your CEO, in the Employee Lounge, with the candlestick? Turn a ho-hum scavenger hunt into an interactive take on the game Clue! Distribute clues/company facts on cards throughout the day – new employees can use the clues to solve a mystery, identify company employees and learn helpful information.
  • Poker, anyone? As leaders and other employees participate in Orientation on the employees’ first day, they can distribute one playing card to each new employee. At the end of the day, the best “poker” hand wins a small prize!
  • Make your org chart come alive! Attach headshots of company leaders and other key employees on cardstock with clues about their name, characteristics and role. Asking yes-or-no questions, players identify which employee is on the card, à la Guess Who?.

 

Whatever your onboarding goals may be for 2018, hopefully these simple, foolproof tactics will serve as inspiration to help you achieve them and truly blow your new employees away! Need assistance developing a results-driven onboarding strategy for your organization? Let’s talk!

Cheers to your organization’s success and prosperity in the new year!

Why Managers Need a “GPS” to Navigate the Employee Development Journey

Why managers need a GPS

Unless one is in the business of “talent,” it could be confusing to recognize what “talent” really means. After all, what differentiates talent management, talent acquisition, talent development, talent shows….okay, I’m kidding on that one. But kidding aside, it can be confusing to people who DO work in a talent-focused role, so it’s no surprise how complex it might seem for anyone else or to understand how their role intersects with the “business” of talent.

People managers, regardless of your industry or department, this one is for you: Your role in developing talent is critical. You are the linchpin. The one who is most likely to encourage – or stunt – an employee’s growth, development and ultimate success within your team and in your organization. And yes, it may be only one of many functions listed on your job description, but it is arguably the most important aspect of your role.

If the end destination is an engaged, successful long-term employee, how do managers navigate the career path – especially when every employee is unique and at different points along the journey, and there are so many different route options to follow?

 

Successful navigators, whether in travel or career, follow a roadmap or GPS.

Throughout the employment journey, a manager should be tuned into employee development needs at every turn:

  • When interviewing and hiring
  • During the onboarding period
  • While career planning
  • Through the succession identification and planning process
  • While promoting an employee (and re-onboarding after that promotion!)
  • When an employee prepares to leave the business

 

Lou Russell, Brittney Helt and I have spent the past several months diving into the manager experience during each stage of employee development and built a simple road map to guide managers’ paths. We are thrilled to launch our new book, Talent GPS: A Manager’s Guide to Navigating the Employee Development Journey, a practical guide for managers to chart their course through this complex process.

Talent GPS cover image 2

 

Remember, an employee’s success hinges on the support provided by his/her manager. Our job as Learning & Talent Development practitioners is to help managers navigate the journey.  

Whether you manage people, or support people who do, you will benefit from having this resource in your collection.

Learn more and order your copy today!

Heading to #ATD2016 this month?

2016-ATD-International-Conference-and-Expo

It’s May – are you heading to Denver for ATD’s International Conference & Expo (ICE) this month? I am – and I couldn’t be more excited! ICE is the biggest event of the year for L&D folks, and I’m ready to absorb every possible idea or nugget of wisdom along with 10,000+ of my fellow colleagues. Plus, I’m on the docket to present this year, which is such a tremendous privilege. 

I'm-speaking-at-ATD-ICE-2016

If this is your first time attending ICE, you should know that this is not an event you just show up at, sans-plan. With so many session options, it’s important to map out some options ahead of time. I’ve been working on my game plan for the past few days. While it is definitely subject to change, here are a few of the sessions I’m considering:

Sunday, May 22

8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Chapter Leader Breakfast, Chapter Leader Day

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. – (SU205) Flip & Drip Approach to Leadership Development: Accelerating Learning Transfer

3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – (SU314) The LeaderShift: How to Engage & Develop the Next Generation of Leaders

4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. – (SU408) Keys to a (Really) Successful New Supervisor Training Program

Evening – ATD-Central Indiana Member Meetup!

Monday, May 23

8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. – (General Session) Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Come Together and Others Don’t

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Chapter Leader Power Hour

3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – (M212) Cracking the Code for Kirkpatrick Levels 3 & 4

4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. – (M3318) Creating and Launching Sales Onboarding in 90 Days or Less 

Evening – TBD

Tuesday, May 24

1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m – (TU200) Redefining the Future of L&D with 70-20-10 and Beyond 

4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. – (TU416) 70-20-10 Onboarding: How to Engage, Empower & Develop New Employees (My session – join me!)

Evening – TBD

Wednesday, May 25

10:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. – (W201) Keeping Learning Alive Through Social Media & Learning Communities

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. – (W304) Ending the ROI Void: What You Should Measure Come Monday

There are still several open spots on my agenda…this is why careful planning is necessary! There are so many intriguing sessions being offered, it’s tough to play the Sophie’s Choice game to decide which to attend. I’ll be narrowing the list over the next week or so, but I still fully expect to call a few audibles here and there.

First time at ICE?

Fear not! The conference website has a handy session planning tool that will let you review the session lineup and bookmark your favorites. Some folks in the L&D blogging community have also shared their own tips for a successful ICE experience. Here’s a great one by JD Dillon – 5 Tips for Making the Most of #ATD2016. He’s also shared his #ATD2016 schedule – check it out!

Will I see you there?

What’s on your must-see list while at ICE? Share your can’t-miss sessions in the comments below! 

Looking for some good conversation while you’re in Denver? Let’s catch up and talk shop over a cup of coffee! Drop me a note – let’s meet up!

The easiest tweak you can make to your training and orientation programs…

stocking-up-on-classroom-candy
How many of you put out candy for training attendees? I know we do at the day job…in fact, the photo above is a shot of my cart on a recent stock-up trip at my local Sam’s Club. Even when the cost of doing business continues to soar, this is an expense that we have curbed, yet kept.

Why?

Because people like candy.

Before the workplace health and wellness fans start to worry, we also provide fresh fruit and some considerably less-exciting snacks like granola bars and trail mix.

Until I attended a recent conference, however, I didn’t give much thought to the bowl of candy that graces our training tables. Then, a tiny little tweak transformed a simple snack into a learning tool.

I promise you now, whether you are a long-time phase(two)learning follower or this is the first post you’ve read, this is worth the price of admission. Which, frankly, is free…so what a deal, amiright?

Check this out:

tech-tip-on-candy-wrapper

Whoa! Mind. Blown.

How simple is this? All that is needed is candy or snacks, a package of printable adhesive labels and some tips or ideas to share to your participants.

Granted, I’m sure I’m not the first person to “discover” this little nugget, but in over 20 years of teaching and facilitation, somehow it’s new to me. Regardless, it got me thinking….how else could we use this easy tip in training or Orientation programs? Here are 8 beyond-simple ideas:

  1. Provide the URL for your organization’s intranet, wiki, or other learning sites.
  2. Share the Twitter handles for influential, must-follow people in your organization or industry.
  3. Post can’t-miss dates – like when your benefit paperwork is due.
  4. Distribute your company’s IT Help Desk email or phone number.
  5. Share interesting trivia about your organization’s history. (Bonus: Have participants piece together the trivia into a timeline!)
  6. Introduce your company’s mission or purpose statement. 
  7. Solicit simple, one-sentence quotes from other employees – tips on how to be successful at your organization
  8. Share “Fact or Fiction” statements about your industry, organization, products/services, etc. Have participants stick (literally!) the wrappers under one of two columns on a flip chart (“fact” or “fiction”). As the candy is consumed throughout training, the columns will grow. On the last day of training, see how accurate everyone’s guesses are!

Honestly, I could probably come up with a dozen other ideas…there are so many creative possibilities for this one!

Your turn: Have you used this type of interactive element in your training sessions? What tips have you communicated? And most importantly, what is the must-have candy in YOUR candy bowl?

Pinterest for Learning Professionals: A Starter Kit

Pinterest-for-Learning-Professionals

Are you on Pinterest? While this addictive, visual social platform has certainly made its mark when it comes to everything from home decorating ideas to recipes to hairstyling tips (and SO much more), it is also a terrific resource for training, instructional/eLearning design and talent development professionals.

I’ve been pinning for a couple of years now. Alongside creatively-titled boards, like “Food My Picky Family Might Actually Like,” “Champagne Wishes and Louboutin Dreams,” and “Clothes Before Bros,” you’ll find my “Learning and Development Playground” board…a repository for awesome infographics, links to helpful articles and dozens of other great nuggets.

Pinterest might not seem like a logical source for professional resources, but I can assure you that I have gained a number of ideas through this social media channel. So, if you are new to Pinterest, consider this post your starter kit. Check out these 10 boards, chock full of L&D nerd-approved resources:

1. Creative Learning

(Shannon Tipton)

Pinterest_-_Creative_Learning

 

2. Blogs I like

(Shannon Tipton)

Pinterest_-_Blogs_I_Like

 

 

3. Work Life: Using Pinterest

(Dawn Mahoney)

Pinterest_-_Work_Life_-_Using_Pinterest

 

 

4. ID/eLearning Books

(Tracy Parish)

Pinterest_-_ID.eLearning_Books

 

 

5. Learning Design

(Enzo Silva)

Pinterest_-_Learning_Design

 

 

6. 70/20/10

(Corey Maddux)

Pinterest_-_70-20-10

 

 

7. Blended

(Corey Maddux)

Pinterest_-_Blended

 

 

8. Checklists & Job Aids for Trainers

(Langevin Learning Services)

Pinterest_-_Checklists_and_Job_Aids_for_Trainers

 

 

9. Training & Talent Development

(Association for Talent Development – ATD)

Pinterest_-_Training_and_Talent_Development

 

 

10. E-Learning Examples

(Articulate)

Pinterest_-_eLearning_examples

 

There you have it. Whether you’re just getting started on Pinterest, or if you’re just looking for some creative, inspiring boards to follow, these 10 examples have a little something for everyone…regardless of your focus along the workplace learning spectrum!

 

Your turn: Do you follow any boards that other learning professionals would find interesting? Share the board name and/or link in the comments below. And don’t forget to follow Learning & Development Playground!

 

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