How to Navigate the ATD 2016 EXPO—and Find the Resources You Really Need

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Navigating your way through the ATD 2016 EXPO can be daunting. Perhaps you were tasked by the home office to find new ice breakers, test drive some mobile learning options, or compare the latest versions of authoring software. Even with a precise mission in mind, it’s easy to get distracted by Company A who is giving away light-up pens that look like light sabers. And let’s not forget Company B, who has popcorn and bottled water to share. It couldn’t hurt to stop at that booth—you did work through lunch, after all.

Although cool prizes, free food, and snappy speakers armed with headsets and laser pointers are captivating, they won’t necessarily help you find solutions to the talent challenges plaguing your organization. Here’s the good news: The EXPO offers something for everyone, whether you’re managing the talent development function of a Fortune 500 business or an instructional designer mired in the day-to-day tasks of developing practical learning solutions.

With more than 400 exhibitors ranging in expertise and services—from organization development consultants to publishers and software providers to tech innovators, covering traditional training, recruitment and retention, employee engagement, and more—it’s difficult to know where to start. Here are a few tips to help you find what you seek at the EXPO.

Choose Your Destination

Your first course of action is to pinpoint your organization’s needs before you arrive. Do you need a new learning management system that enables you to link learner analytics to line-of-business goals? What about off-the-shelf soft skills courseware you can use to develop leadership skills or address diversity and inclusion efforts? Maybe you seek an authoring tool that will help you convert your existing online learning programs for mobile delivery? It’s all there—trust me.


Next, you should consult with co-workers. Before making your way to the conference, check in with team members not attending the event. Ask them what they’re working on and what help they need. If you’re attending the conference with colleagues, divvy up the team’s goals. Perhaps one person will demo various authoring tools, while someone else will review off-the-shelf course providers. Ask others to jot down notes about their experience, and be sure to do the same for them.

Chart Your Course

Once you know you what you’re looking for, it’s time to find the suppliers that have what you need. Before you arrive in Denver, check out the EXPO website. You can use the search function to find suppliers in specific product categories like change management, sales training, and team building. To plot your course in the EXPO Hall, take a look at the interactive map. Scroll over the booths to see company names, or use the “Search the Show” button to look up specific company names to find booth numbers. Finally, once you’re on-site, don’t forget to peruse the 2016 Look Book addendum and event app for any updates.

Don’t Forget the Souvenirs

Let’s be honest. It’s nearly impossible to take in everything there is to see in the EXPO. Although it’s tempting to pick up every informational packet you see, be discriminating. Only take materials from compelling organizations. You can sort through the content during a break, over dinner, or back at the hotel—whenever you have a clear mind, but also while the visit is still fresh. Whatever you do, do not plan on taking everything home. Your back and shoulders will thank you. But do remember to pick up a few free stress balls, note pads, key chains, and stylus pens for those back at the office.

Bottom line: Learn about the latest trends. Make new connections. Have fun. It’s all there waiting for you at the ATD 2016 EXPO. 

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About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at 

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