At the annual, international training conference in Washington, DC, I came away with two realizations. First, as you hopefully know by now, The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) is changing its name to the Association for Talent Development (ATD).
This rebranding will be positive for our profession because it may energize those in the profession, elevate the profession within the business community – especially in the eyes of the customers we serve, and reinforce our mission to improve the performance of employees (and not just train them).
Second, after spending three days in the Exposition Hall meeting and greeting the more than 40 learning leaders who were interviewed on the Learning Insights radio program (both internal Talent Development executives from companies ranging from Twitter to T-Mobile and external industry thought leaders like Jim Kirkpatrick and Jack Phillips), it became even more obvious to me that face-to-face, in-person human interaction is the axle grease of doing business.
During those three days at ASTD ICE, I had the opportunity to reconnect with dozens of professionals I have met over the years – clients, prospects, consultants, industry luminaries, and people in transition. With each of those interactions, we deepened our relationship by looking each other in the eye, seeing the passion we each have for our profession (talent development), and exploring how we can help other in our pursuit of helping employees improve their performance.
The result of most of the conversations and personal interactions was usually some type of follow-up or promise that would help each us in our respective businesses. When you are meeting with someone in-person, you are much more engaged (not checking email while sitting on a conference call) and feel obligated to follow up for that person as opposed to the voice on the other end of the line whom you may have never met in person. Do you want to do a favor for someone you’ve never met and shook hands with?
An old client stopped by our booth at ASTD ICE, and we were discussing his interest in Learning Record Store (LRS) for USAA. No more than 30 minutes later, an LRS vendor stopped by our booth to observe our radio program. I connected the LRS vendor with my old client after telling him that I’d keep my eyes and ears open for LRS vendors.
We need in-person interactions to further our relationships, build trust, learn about our common interests, and find out how we can help each other serve our professional and personal needs. While Webinars, conference calls, chat, email, Skype, and other technology-based substitutes for in-person interactions are not going away (nor should they), in-person, relationship-building opportunities are needed in our business.
A recent New York Times article cited a study that every dollar spent on a business trip yields $8 in return. Three days at ASTD/ICE with a mobile radio station and a handful of staff was no small expense. But the connections we made, the people we met and the things we learned were and are invaluable and could not have been achieved via conference call, Webinar, or email. How much more productive do you think you’d be if you met in person with your subject matter experts or key stakeholders while designing and developing talent development solutions?