Learning and Development

The Buzz of ATD 2024

ATD 2024 in New Orleans generated serious excitement. Here are our takeaways, in case you missed it.

The Buzz of ATD 2024
Editorial Team
June 15, 2024
The Buzz of ATD 2024

It would be selling it short to say ATD 2024 was incredible.

The sessions and expo were electric. There was a buzz in the air. There was Matthew McConaughey, Venus Williams, Daniel Pink. Talk about star power. 10,000-plus people attended from 80 different countries, all gathered in the heart of New Orleans.

Energy. So much energy. From the scale of the crowd to the scale of the floor, the volume of offerings, the number of people attending – the experience was hard to describe.

 But that’s exactly what we’ll do here. And if you didn’t make it to the conference this year, we have got you covered. Here are our highlights.

If you didn't get a chance to win a copy of our CEO's bestseller, The Learn-It-All Leader at ATD24, download a free digital copy now!

Everybody’s talking about AI

Probably 70% of the sessions we attended talked about artificial learning and machine learning. Even the sessions that weren’t focused on AI mentioned it. The newest tech is in full bloom, and professionals had thoughts on the subject.

People appeared to fit into three camps. Camp One thinks the machines will take your job. Camp Two says AI will save time and reduce effort. Then there’s a third camp. Camp Three uses AI for enrichment, to increase depth and quality. Camp Three says that AI enhances the “How” of what we do in Learning and Development. But it can’t replicate the “Why,” and it can’t replace the “Who.”

Someone in Camp Three shared a maxim we really liked: Think of AI as your intern.

You already have a tab for Google. Now keep one open for your AI intern. Bounce ideas off it. Let it help you brainstorm. The technology isn’t going anywhere, so see how it can complement the mental models you’re already using – and help you develop new ones.

It’s like what McConaughey said. Be willing to take risks.

Dr. Mickey Fitch-Collins: The next Daniel Pink?

Okay, we may be biased. But Learnit’s own Mickey Fitch-Collins delivered a session that packed a serious punch, and people are raving about it. She’s still getting tagged on LinkedIn.

Mickey “blew my mind.” She was “one of the best speakers” at ATD according to one person, and “one of the most engaging presenters all week,” according to another. Mickey also offered free follow-up sessions last week, which participants lauded as “great,” “enthusiastic,” “conversational,” and “deeply engaging.” We didn’t even pay these people for the praise. Should we?

Mickey Fitch-Collins, PHD, Learnit Leadership Facilitator speaking at ATD24

To a rapt crowd of 300, Dr. Fitch-Collins talked about one of Learnit’s favorite subjects: “Influencing without Authority.” Audience members learned how to use our Benefit/Relationship Matrix to elevate their peer influence.

But that’s only part of it. For Mickey, the biggest takeaway from ATD and her presentation was the human factor. Going to ATD means getting to “actually meet someone in person,” Mickey said, “who can help solve your problems.” For her, the experience is about “personal connection, building trust, feeling psychologically safe with a trainer, with a company, with an offering.”

And if you didn’t get to attend, it’s not too late to do this! We’ll talk about building community here in a sec, but first: some takeaways from the keynotes.

Matthew McConaughey kicked off with his infamous “Alright alright alright,” which it turns out was actually an unscripted line that catapulted his success. For him, success is the result of two things: over-preparedness and an openness to taking risks. In his experience, getting uncomfortable almost always leads to growth.

Daniel Pink’s superpower is his ability to conduct mountains of research – and then distill it into key, communicable actions. This skill was obvious in his keynote, which covered five main directives:

1) Create a To-Don’t list for the year;

2) List 3 ways at the end of the day that you made progress;

3) Have 2 fewer talks a week about “How” and replace them with “Why” conversations;

4) Schedule 15-min walk breaks every day; and

5) Use decision-making questions to drive bolder actions.

Venus Williams talked about resilience, mindset, and coaching’s vital role. We liked her mantra “reload, recharge, start new.” She talked about turning setbacks into opportunities, and she discussed the significance of diversity and inclusion in sports and her entrepreneurial ventures.

Our main takeaway from the keynotes, however, wasn’t what was said, but what wasn’t. None of these speakers boasted or bragged. They didn’t build themselves up. They came across as real people – humble, comfortable in their skin, open about their difficulties and how they overcame them.

Community and networking above (almost) all else

Whether it was AI or influence, McConaughey or Williams, whenever people were talking, they were talking about community.

What are the best employee retention strategies?

Those that invest in your organization’s current community members.  

How can we effectively leverage AI in our organization?

By strategically enhancing community interactions.

Why are innovative teaching strategies relevant for every team?

Because when you invest in new talent, you want to keep it. And when you honor people who stay with you, you give the whole community a reason to grow.

We had a few main takeaways from networking at ATD. The biggest takeaway was how much of a jolt of energy and enthusiasm it was to connect with others, to share the feeling that we’re not alone. What we learned was you don’t have to wait until ATD 2025 to make these kinds of connections.

Learnit team hosted an epic party at The National World War II Museum - ATD24

Imagine this: There’s a moment when you’re between conversations with groups of people, floating from table to table. You pause, close your eyes, and listen. All around you, the air is filled with the sounds of laughter and storytelling, and all of it is related to your work and passions. Everybody there cares about what you do. You can feel the enthusiasm vibrating in the ground.

This was a moment Mickey experienced at our private offsite event at the World War II Museum. People had shown up 45 minutes before the event started, lining up to arrive, and by the end of the night, the venue more or less had to push us out the door.

Networking wasn’t 10,000 people. It was two or three people at a time. It was people sitting around a table eating cheese and crackers, sharing stories.

In that space, we got to share some insight into what we do and why we do it. We got to learn what people are struggling with, what challenges they’re facing. That gave us information to know what we can do to support people better.

People didn’t want the event to end. It doesn’t have to. Reach out to us through our site or on LinkedIn. We might not have another Wheel of Prizes until the next ATD, but we want to hear your story.

The Learnit team representing at ATD24