@LnDDave David Kelly on Learning Conferences in 2013

As part of my preparation for the ASTD ICE 2013 conference in Dallas this month, I’ve been interviewing people like Tony Bingham, Juana Llorens and Frederic Williquet (coming soon). Today, its David Kelly, better known to his 3000+ Twitter followers as @LnDDave and to others as the King of the backchannel… David is speaking at the ASTD2013 International Conference and Exhibition during session SU210 “Curation: Beyond the Buzzword”. In this interview, he outlines his approach to conference success and the learning and development topics he is currently most interested in.


Q1: In the previous conferences you have attended what have been the most interesting sessions you followed?

I usually break conference sessions into two categories: Sessions that will provide me with knowledge and skills that I can use today and sessions that will expand my skill sets and prepare me for skills I will need tomorrow.

I’m at a point in my career where I probably allocate my sessions to 25% “today” and 75% “tomorrow”. However, I’m lucky enough to have been in this field for about 15 years and have been to more conferences and professional development opportunities than most in the field. The average practitioner has less experience and does not regularly attend conferences, so I would expect their allocation to skew more towards skills they can use today.

Specifically for me though, I usually try to find one or two sessions that break the mould from what you might expect from a learning professional conference. For example, some of the sessions I’ve been interested in at recent events include topics like sketch-noting, looking at design in places outside of instructional design and gaming.


Q2: I know you’ve spoken at and attended a number of conferences in the past few years. What topics do you think still merit more work and attention in 2013?

I recall reading a statistic recently that said the average experience of people in our field is five years. If that’s true, then most of the people in our field are likely novices. As I mentioned a moment ago, a sizable percentage of any conference audience will be new to the field and may actually be attending a conference for the first time. As such, there’s always going to be a need for entry-level programs that help those novices develop skills they can use immediately. And I think that’s very important.

What interests me more though are the sessions that go beyond the basics and stretch the novice skills set. I think conferences need more sessions that make attendees rethink the traditional “training” paradigm; sessions that help refocus our field away from “training” and “learning” as the default and start shifting our focus towards “performance” and “contextual connections”. With that in mind, I’m hoping to see more conferences including sessions focused on topics such as telling better stories with our data, performance support instead of training, experience design over instructional design, and breaking away from the course model.


Q3: What are according to you the 3 biggest challenges that learning and development managers will face over the next 5 years?

Just three? I’m kidding. Here are three that immediately come to mind:

  • Redefining data: There’s a lot of buzz around data right now. If you look at most conference programs you’ll likely see sessions including terms like “Big Data”, “Tin Can” and “The Experience API”. Learning professionals need to pay attention to this. The way we define data, in terms of metrics like completions or pass/fail, is going to be replaced with data that tells a much more meaningful story around performance. The question is: Will learning professionals be ready?
  • Learning as part of the work: Traditionally, workers needed to stop work in order to learn or be trained. You needed to either leave the workplace to attend training or stop working to sit in front of a computer to complete an elearning course. That’s changing. Technology now enables learning and skill development to be built right into the existing workflow without the need to have an employee stop working to attend ‘training’. It’s less intrusive and fits better into the model of how workers really learn how to do their jobs. The problem is: The traditional training skill set does not support playing in that space.
  • Shifting from “knowing” to “connecting”: The shelf life of information is decreasing rapidly while the speed in which performance support interventions are required is increasing even faster. In today’s world of exponentially increasing data it is impossible to know everything. What is therefore far more important is to be able to find the answer to anything in a timely manner. With that in mind the role of the learning professional shifts away from building and delivering solutions towards building connections between those with needs and those with the resources that satisfy the need. This involves competencies that are new to the learning profession such as curation and community management.


Q4: People not attending a conference can follow content via your backchannel “hub page”. Do you have ideas on how they can get more actively involved during conference week?

Without question the best way to be more involved in a conference backchannel is to prepare yourself for it ahead of time. Many people want to participate, but don’t regularly use Twitter, where most backchannels today take place. That’s a recipe for failure. The value of a backchannel comes from the sharing and from the connections and interactions you have with other like-minded professionals. You can’t concentrate on “what to tweet” to participate in a backchannel if you’re still struggling with “how to tweet”.


Q5: What are your own personal objectives for conferences this year?

My objectives for conferences are actually pretty consistent when examined at a high level. They include:

  • Learning about the trends that will impact our industry in the future.
  • Looking for sessions that might provide answers to problems I am actively trying to solve.
  • Connecting with attendees and continue to expand my personal learning network.


Maybe you have a question for David yourself? He will be speaking at the ASTD2013 International Conference and Exhibition during session SU210 “Curation: Beyond the Buzzword”.

You can find him on Twitter and keep in touch with his opinion on the ever changing world of learning and development.

Or you can leave a comment here.

Thanks for reading!


David Kelly headshot

David Kelly is the Program Director for The eLearning Guild based out of New York, USA. He has over over 15 years of experience in the learning field, serving capacities of training director, internal learning and performance consultant, social media trainer and community manager. Regularly referenced as king of the conference backchannel, David is also a Twitter chat curator. Learn more about David at his website: http://davidkelly.me.

About Dan Steer

Wandering corporate trainer, learning and development consultant, conference speaker and professional El-Magico. I help people get better at stuff by creating and facilitating Infinite Learning © opportunities. The world would be a better place if everyone was doing what he loved and doing it well. I am working to bring out the "El Magico" in everybody. Training in presentation and communication skills, leadership, social media for learning and marketing, learning and development management + personal effectiveness.

Posted on May 15, 2013, in Learning Management and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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