The 3 Biggest Takeaways from My First ATD Meeting

Back in the day when I owned a radio station (and yes, there really was a time when giant corporations didn’t own them all,) I always encouraged my sales reps to learn as much as they could about their clients’ businesses so they could understand the challenges of running those businesses from their clients’ point of view. I urged my sales people to go as far as to ask their clients for copies of the trade magazines they read so they could learn more about their clients’ industries.  Whether it was a car dealer, a furniture store, or a restaurant, I wanted our sales people to be a sustaining resource for their clients. It was part of the consultant-sales approach we used that set us apart from the “We’re #1”  and “Our rates are cheaper” approaches the other stations used.

Whether you are developing eLearning content for an internal client, an external client, or, in my case, providing the voice for that eLearning content, I still think it’s a good idea to have an understanding of your client’s business and the challenges they face.

So, with that in mind, I headed off to my very first ATD meeting, held at the Alamo Café. It’s a well-known Mexican food restaurant here in San Antonio that inspired the food porn you see above. And no, the 3 biggest takeaways weren’t the 3 enchiladas!

Here are the 3 biggest takeaways I got from the meeting:

1. A study by Microsoft-Canada showed that in only 13 years, the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. (By comparison, a goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds.) As you can imagine, this has major implications for both training and learning.

2. A good source for free images and videos for your e-Learning projects is After the meeting, I visited the website myself, and found the images to be of very high quality. They are copyright free, royalty free, and attribution is not required.

3. As much as 80% of what is learned is forgotten in 30 days. This is because the brain needs 3 or more instances of retrieval in 30 days in order to make learning “stick.” One way to get 3 instances of retrieval is to test the learner 3 times in 30 days. Although the speaker didn’t say it, I took this to mean that the traditional e-Learning method of having a learner sit through a page-turner and then take a test at the end may not result in much retention.

So there you have it. My introduction to ATD. And a rewarding one it was! Many thanks to James Hilburn, Technical Design and Development Lead at SWBC, for an excellent presentation.

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