ATD 2022: The Industry’s “Ultimate Show and Tell!”

It is with great pleasure that I offer you unsolicited input (based on direct observations and interactions) from ATD’s 2022 conference in Orlando, Florida!

First off, and in the “for what it is worth category,” it felt so very good to travel in a conscientious manner and find myself in the company of 6,000 or so like-minded training professionals. I didn’t chase people up and down escalators asking them to share how they were feeling, but I got the distinct impression I was not the only person who was quietly applauding our collective and responsible efforts to revive the training industry’s “ultimate show and tell” experience!

In absolutely no strategic or prioritized sequence whatsoever, here are a few reflections that defined this year’s ATD experience for us at The Center for Leadership Studies (CLS):

Connections, Discussions, Ideas and Renewal

There is an ongoing and omnipresent risk— reward analysis we all work ourselves through when it comes to doing just about anything face-to-face today. In the context of this blog: Is it worth it to put yourself in the physical presence of others to “sharpen your saw?” Clearly, content can be consumed effectively from a distance. So, if your ATD objectives were confined to learning new things from credentialed presenters on topics of interest, the virtual option was probably the clear winner.

Along the same lines (and as we have all become painstakingly aware of by this point), the virtual path features zero travel cost or related expense. That, in and of itself, will forever remain a legitimate obstacle for attending just about anything in-person (and, quite frankly, should!).

On the other hand, if your objectives for attending ATD had something to do with taking action or formulating a specific response (i.e., deciding on content to include in your curriculum, selecting a partner to move forward with on a project of significance, conducting time-sensitive research on options available for consideration, reconnecting with key customers or colleagues to get an updated sense of how you might be able to offer tangible assistance moving forward, etc.), making the effort and incurring the expense to take a three-day trip to Orlando was definitely the way to go!

To that point, the words I would use to describe the people I interacted with at ATD this year (compared to years past) would be active and intentional. They were on a variety of different missions and deliberately pursued their purpose in that regard.

Technology and Coaching

We (CLS) took 15 people to ATD this year. As I prepared to draft this blog, I sent out an e-mail to each of them asking for perspective: “In a word or a quick soundbite, how would you describe ATD?”

One response I received included the following and, upon further review and reflection, I was struck by how accurate I found these comments to be:

  • “Technology is struggling to define itself.”
  • “Everyone is a coach.”

 

Technology: This is a quote I came across recently in a business publication: “… of 53 tech-related companies that went public last year through an IPO or direct listing, all but three are now trading well below their offer or opening price … more than half have tumbled by at least 50%.”

It seems to substantiate on a macro level what my colleague was referring to on a micro level (with her frame of reference confined to the ATD EXPO floor). In a space once dominated by content providers, technology suppliers can now be found down every aisle and around every corner. Further, and with ever-increasing regularity, it is difficult to determine the true uniqueness—or, in many cases, the fundamental value propositions—of all but a few.

Coaching: “Coaches” are literally everywhere and imbedded in just about everything. Quick verification activity: “How many people do you know, personally, who have retired, invested in a website, perhaps received some sort of certification and are now offering their services as a coach?”

There are few (if any) barriers to entering this market, and, as a result, options abound! It is akin to googling the term leadership, and then working your way through the mounds of results that search produces.

 

Is coaching a “good thing? Without question! (Probably the short answer to why there is such abundant supply!) No easy solution here, of course, other than to streamline your search for a coach with an intentional, well-researched and targeted approach that allows you to eliminate the imposters from the suppliers that can consistently deliver value.

Increased Consolidation and Partnership

As is the case with many industries who have worked their way through infancy and adolescence into some stage of maturity, survival and prosperity moving forward translates to alliances, mergers, acquisitions and strategic partnerships. Orlando provided many examples of that migration, and there are undoubtedly many more to come moving forward.

Thanks to all at ATD for a memorable and highly productive excursion!