The ASTD 2013 International Conference & EXPO will take place May 19-22, 2013. We caught up with Brandon Finlen, ASTD's director of marketing, to get his thoughts on the upcoming event in Dallas, TX.
Tell us a little about yourself.
- I joined ASTD in 2011 by way of the San Francisco Advertising Agency Community where I spent my time developing marketing strategy for clients such as Clorox, Disney, and Microsoft among others. I am a huge foodie and I wage a constant battle to hide my inner geek.
Can you share with us your role in organizing the ASTD 2013 International Conference & EXPO? How much planning goes into an event like this?
- A lot. When I came onboard in 2011, I thought compared to Microsoft and Disney a conference about learning would be pretty quick in comparison, but planning for the event starts several years in advance. From a marketing standpoint, as soon as the conference ends we start evaluating what worked and how we can build on that for next year. Our conference sites www.tkconference.org and www.astdconference.org are now built to be live year round. I was so impressed with the level of engagement and passion from our members, and when you couple that with the few sessions I was able to attend, I ended up walking out drinking the Kool-Aid, which was totally unexpected for me. We wanted that to show on our sites from year to year.
What are you looking forward to about ASTD 2013?
- Riding the mechanical bull at Gilley’s at ASTD Networking Night…
In all seriousness, while I am looking forward to playing out the scene from Urban Cowboy, I am more looking forward to hanging out with our members again. Last year’s International Conference in Denver was my first, and I left with such a high from the energy level of the attendees and from the thought-provoking information I heard in the few sessions I was able to attend.
What is new at ASTD 2013?
- Well I am actually looking forward to so much we have planned this year. It’s ASTD’s 70th anniversary and we have a few things planned around that, not to mention our new ASTD Central. We have been planning this for the past two years and Dallas will be a great chance to showcase that effort.
What is a Community of Practice? How can I find out more about them on site or online?
- Communities of Practice are ASTD’s way to help our members find content, offerings, and even peers around their own interests. There will be almost 1500 square feet dedicated to learning more about the communities of practice and how they can benefit you. Each of the community managers will be on hand to talk about what they have planned for 2013 and beyond. You can also find out more about the Communities of Practice here.
Is ASTD 2013 truly a global conference?
- You would be hard-pressed to describe it any other way. We typically see over 2,000 people attend from outside the United States, and last year we had attendees from more than 85 countries. We expect this number to continue to grow in Dallas. Learn more about ASTD 2013's international offerings here.
What is ASTD Networking Night?
- Networking Night is a great chance for our attendees to get to know each other in a less formal environment while having a little fun. This year’s venue is something our attendees will be sure to enjoy and is being held at Gilley’s, which gained world recognition in the John Travolta classic Urban Cowboy. Great food, dancing, live music, and a mechanical bull are just a few things to look forward to.
Any tips for first-time attendees?
- With so much to do there are many tips I would love to give, but in the interest of time and space let me give the top 3.
- Be sure to attend the Newcomers orientation on Sunday at 9:45 a.m. to learn how to best to maximize your conference experience. Also, check out one of the membership benefits sessions on Sunday or Monday to learn about your benefits and how to use them.
- Build your plan in the schedule builder. This is actually a tip from past attendees—there is so much content and offerings at the conference that it’s hard to see everything, so plan out your top interests. Having this to refer to once you are on site makes a huge difference.
- Have fun! I am not in the training and development field by trade but I actually really enjoyed my first International Conference, especially the passion of our members and the content of our speakers. If I enjoyed it as much as I did, I can only imagine what it must be like if you are in the field.
Is there any advantage to registering early?
Register by March 31 to get our special reduced advanced rate. (If you aren't yet an ASTD member, join when registering to save even more.)
If you are considering attending a pre-conference workshop or certificate program, it is even more important to register early as these sessions tend to sell out.
Also, be sure to book your housing through the official ASTD 2013 room block as soon as possible in order to have the best chance of securing the hotel of your choice.
How does ASTD communicate with its members and customers about the conference?
- In numerous ways. While email is a medium that is effective with our members, we try to use many tactics to ensure we are reaching an audience that would be interested in what today’s experts within the training and development field have to say. Over the past couple of years this has started to expand from the traditional direct mail and T+D advertisements to a more digital effort. Paid search and digital ads have been great additions to our marketing efforts.
Anything else you’d like to say to our members attending the conference?
- I would like to thank you for all of your support of ASTD—we have some pretty cool things planned for the first time at the International Conference and I hope you enjoy it. All of the members I have had a chance to speak with have left an impression on me, so if you have any questions or would like to meet up at the conference, feel free to stop by ASTD Central in Dallas!