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Monday Snapshot: Highlights of Virtual Conference Sessions

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Association for Talent Development’s Virtual Conference offers 100 hours of on-demand content, and many of these sessions are eligible for certification and recertification points. Here are highlights of some of the sessions. To explore all on-demand content, visit

Transform Your Thinking When It Comes to AI
Track: Evaluating Impact

In “Deploying AI Chatbots for Learning Transfer: Impact and Insights,” Emma Weber shares the experience that she and her team had with developing and using chatbot Coach M. In contrast to what many would initially think, digital transformation is not about the technology. As Weber explains, it was about “me transforming my attitude” toward digitalization.

She suggests that we think about digitalization and artificial intelligence in terms of solving a problem. One problem common to TD practitioners is how to apply learning. Weber and her team believe that to do so, it’s important to get people to slow down and reflect and have a conversation with themselves. For her team, the question arose about using AI to drive accountability in employees having that conversation with themselves.

Weber outlines three common types of chatbots: a common website to answer basic FAQs; a web portal with a user login to provide user-specific messaging; and a common messaging platform that is available 24/7 to proactively work with people. Weber and her team use the third type via a short message system (SMS) for the employee learning journey.

The learning begins with preparation in the training environment in which the individual creates an action plan on a development goal. The second phase is the action that occurs in the internal environment, in which learners engage in reflective conversations with Coach M. Finally, the evaluation of the learning takes place in the work environment, where the application or results are measured.

Learn to Love Networking
Track: Career Development

Like it or not, networking is essential for professional development and growth. In “Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed and the Underconnected”—based on the same title as her book—author Devora Zack discusses strategies and ideas that you can easily implement at the next networking event you attend.

While many networking resources and experts target the outspoken and the outgoing, Zack emphasizes practical strategies for introspective and introverted individuals, like her. She answers some popular questions: Why do we hate networking, and what can we do about it? Regardless of where you stand on the social spectrum—introvert, extrovert, or centrovert—Zack says networking isn’t about pretending and bases her advice on authenticity.


Early in the session, Zack defines what networking actually is, explaining the importance of connection versus collection. She goes on to provide strategies on how to de-escalate the stresses that accompany networking, such as where you sit, how to introduce yourself, and how to politely excuse yourself from conversations. She also highlights ways to establish rapport with others and provides insights on introverts’ and extroverts’ temperament preferences.

The principles she covers will prove helpful for those looking to head off any hesitation about networking as well as those who want to teach networking best practices to others. After this session, you’ll know exactly what to do with business cards and contacts you establish and will see networking events as a golden opportunity.

Double Espresso for Me: Engage Learners
Track: Instructional Design

To learn, participants have to interact with the course material, explains Anne M. Beninghof in the session “Caffeinated Training Design: An Engagement-Centered Process”—and she points to research to back this assertion. In her session, she offers several methods for high engagement in training courses, whether virtual or in person. Beninghof calls these methods “add-ins”—similar to the vanilla or caramel flavoring that you may add to your coffee to make it enticing and memorable. Although with engaging learning, learners don’t need the caffeine.

One add-in is grabbing and sustaining learner attention. Doing activities that capture individual attention manipulates the release of dopamine, which keeps learners persevering. One method for doing so is through puzzles.

One example is Guess the word, a variation of 4 Pics 1 Word. The facilitator shows four pictures that all have one thing in common; it’s up to learners to determine that one word, which ties into learning—such as teaming or engagement.


A second add-in is including elements in your training course that nurture brain safety. Not all learners enjoy the noise that can be part of animated training. For introverts, Beninghof suggests facilitators incorporate time for silent writing—that is, for reflection. She further advises that facilitators let learners know in advance whether they’ll be asked to share their answers following the exercise.

Other add-in methods include activating and connecting knowledge, which can include doodling while listening; tapping into emotion and purpose; facilitating curiosity; and developing multisensory experiences.

Know How to Navigate the Digital World
Track: Global Perspectives

Along with the excitement change brings, many workers will experience frustrations when endeavoring to effectively navigate the virtual world. In “Digital Fluency: Essential Skills for the Globally Connected Workplace,” globally recognized virtual working expert David Smith asks you to consider whether you and your colleagues have all the tools to effectively connect, communicate, and collaborate virtually.

Effectiveness in those endeavors requires a high degree of digital fluency—and that necessitates training, Smith posits. “We can’t turn around and have the same principles of how we worked face to face in that office environment where we had closed doors and think they’re going to have to be able to perform and do exactly the same in a virtual world where there are no walls, there are no doors to be closed ….”

After opening the session with an amusing video depicting a virtual conference gone wrong, Smith sets the framework for his talk by highlighting the difference between digital and virtual platforms. He then digs deeper by explaining how different technologies or platforms can shape or change a virtual experience.

He wraps up the session with practical tips on how to become a more effective presenter, trainer, and leader by unpacking the seven areas of virtual presence. Outfitting employees with a laptop and a headset is a start to increasing digital fluency, but stopping there would be a mistake.

Share your ATD Virtual Conference experience on social media. #ATDVirtualConference

About the Author

Connection Point is the daily news source written by ATD staff for the ATD Virtual Conference, relaying news, session coverage, and other updates.

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