I recently attended my first ATD conference, and I’m delighted to share my experience at this year’s TechKnowledge conference in San Jose. These were my highlights as a TK first-timer:
1. Marco Tempest’s Opening KeynoteMarco Tempest opened the TK conference with an inspirational and engaging presentation. His keynote included a magical spectacle of card tricks, drones, and technological illusions that illustrated how to foster a "magical mindset". His recipe for a "magical mindset" included curiosity, collaboration, sharing, storytelling, user experience, and diversity of thought.
While his presentation was dazzling, he shared practical insights to welcome and seek out diverse thinkers to solve organizational problems and collaborate to find creative solutions. My favorite moment may have been during the Q&A when he was asked about how he’d dealt with failure. He laughed and pointed out how his greatest failures led him to the magnificent drone display he’d just shared. He highlighted the value in flexible thinking when he described his original vision for his drone display five years ago and the evolution of what it is today.
2. Super SessionsThe super sessions were a first for TK. Three facilitators shared the stage to deliver their session simultaneously and participants used radio headsets to dial in to their speaker of choice. I loved taking advantage of the ability to change channels. If the speaker’s topic wasn’t what you needed, you’d just change the channel! Without needing to move rooms or distract others, it was easy to discretely switch between speakers. It was also an engaging way for participants to control their learning experience. I hopped to a different speaker when he suddenly interrupted the other two speakers to say hello. While I was intrigued to see what he was up to, I was able to check him out before switching back over to my preferred content.
3. PlaygroundThe playground was set up with six different stages for smaller breakout sessions, each with unique programming (for example, the disrupt stage had facilitator-led conversations about industry issues). Like the super sessions, participants tuned in with radio headsets and could easily explore other sessions and speakers.
It was exciting to see participants’ and facilitators’ willingness to adapt to a new format, and I loved watching folks learn in real time and offer recommendations to each other. For example, one facilitator started including messages to folks who may be tuning in from a different location after she had her own experience channel surfing and listening into sessions from other rooms.
I most appreciated the calm atmosphere. I felt the energy of so many people and sessions in the room without feeling my energy depleted from constant noise and stimulus typically associated with conferences.
4. Opportunities to Build Your CommunityHave you ever wanted to engage with a facilitator but gotten stuck in a line behind 10 other folks who just attended the same session, and it turned into a “Thank you, that was really great, I learned so much!” instead?
TK offered many different ways to meaningfully connect on both a social and professional levels. The Kickstarter gave folks a chance to meet their “tribe” (randomly assigned during registration) for the first time, and various committee members helped facilitate these groups to break the ice and start making connections.
The app helped participants find each other based on shared skillsets, interests, or challenges and there were spaces in the Playground and Chat Away Café for folks to reserve space.
In Betty Danowitz’s scheduled coffee chat, I participated in a discussion on strategies to incorporate AR within strict security settings. The next morning, I enjoyed wandering into the Chat Away Café and randomly stumbling into a conversation about institutional knowledge best practices.
There were also author chats, post session takeaways, and meet-to-eats facilitated by speakers to continue cultivating relationships.
5. ScavengAR HuntDestery Hildenbrand created a scavenger hunt around San Jose while based in Iowa! There were six different locations and participants had to scan an AR code (hence ScavengAR Hunt) at each site and complete a short task before receiving their next location clue. I was impressed that so many participants stuck with it for the three-mile loop, whether on foot, scooter, or bike. I was stationed at the SAP Center as a human AR marker and was amazed at how quickly people made it to my stop, which was fourth out of six.
I loved the gathering at Mezcal for food and drinks afterward and found myself in a booth with a group of new acquaintances who pulled out a card game about values. Even though I had just met these ladies, they shared an inviting and safe space to be vulnerable as we explored the peaks and valleys of our value systems.