Takeaways from Training Magazine’s 2021 Virtual Conference

Several Thinkers recently had the opportunity to attend Training Magazine’s 2021 Virtual Conference. While this was quite different from the in-person events of previous years, we were truly impressed with the experience producers created for the over 1,000 Learning & Development professionals in attendance. The interactive event took place over five days and was 100% live—no small feat! And while we attended for the enriching content, we also gained valuable insights from the attendee perspective about session structure and variety, as well as what worked to keep us engaged.

Here are a few key takeaways from Brandon, Emelyn, Jaime, and Julia:

  • Speakers Who Inspire – At Think Up, we value and continuously seek out outside-in thinking because we know it broadens our perspectives and makes us better thinkers—and these conference keynote speakers delivered. Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, spoke about the power of positivity and the importance of “improving our emotional immune system” by regularly practicing gratitude. Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert’s message about “purpose anxiety” resonated with our creative brains. “Liberate yourself from the desperate drive that everything you do has to have purpose,” she recommended. “That kills spontaneity, joy, and creativity.” We’ll work on it, Liz!
  • Elevating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace – While diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are not new to the workplace, organizations are seeing (and responding to) the call to action from employees. Think Up has dedicated time and resources to building skills and expertise in this evolving landscape and we were excited by the opportunity to learn from DEI leaders from Verizon, Levi Strauss, Creative Reaction Lab, Ernst and Young, and Land O’Lakes. Important concepts discussed include:
    • Awareness isn’t enough because it doesn’t necessarily lead to behavior change. DEI training must include opportunities for practice and reinforcement. Organizational change is often required, and organizations need to allow people to make change happen. At Think Up, we firmly believe that DEI is not just a training issue—it is a strategy and culture opportunity.
    • Language Setting for organizations. Because we all come from different experiences and backgrounds, it is necessary to establish a common language in order to be able to co-create an inclusive experience.
    • Power dynamics. It’s not just about creating safe spaces, but about creating brave and accountable spaces. They key is figuring out the shifting and sharing of power—yielding vs. wielding power.
    • Focusing on common experiences. Diversity training that emphasizes differences doesn’t work. The focus needs to be on similarities and finding a common goal.
  • Industry Trends – Our Thinkers regularly dedicate time to staying on top of industry trends and we make it our business to know what’s out there. This conference provided a fantastic opportunity to ensure we’re “in the know” on all things Learning & Development. A few trends that piqued our interest and have us doing some further research include: segmenting audiences, automating data, validating behavioral change, an increased focus on engagement, and a Think Up personal favorite: completely customized learning content.
  • Learning & Design Theory – We heard new takes on tried-and-true models and concepts that gave us the opportunity to challenge our thinking. While many of our approaches were validated, we’re walking away with broader insights and greater awareness of the most current thinking around training, design theory, content development, and more. Add to that new tools for promoting interactivity, driving engagement, refining content, and building AR/VR learning into the flow of work, and we have a whole new arsenal of things to apply to what we do!

Many thanks to Training Magazine for hosting such an engaging, inspiring, and information-packed virtual conference. We look forward to attending next year—hopefully in person!

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