ATD ICE 2018 – Keynote Recap: Connie Podesta

Keynote: Connie Podesta

I was super excited to attend Connie Podesta’s session, Life would be easy, if it weren’t for other people, because it seemed very relatable. Decoding the mystery of human behaviour seems like a unicorn of an event, but if she has advice, I’ll take it!

Connie Podesta begins her session by asking us how many of us would live our best lives if it weren’t for other people. ALL OF US.

She gives us two choices “I have an UNBELIEVABLE PowerPoint presentation”, with workbooks, and group work, or “vote for choice two before you hear it”…no really, choice two is to do none of that.

If you’re married, have kids, have bosses, have co-workers…selling is your ability to get people onboard. Today, Connie is going to show us how to get people onboard with all of these individuals!

Connie explains that women have created the term ‘executive coach’ to ensure men would come to the sessions…that’s why we don’t call ourselves therapists (to men). I know a lot of men who are comfortable going to therapists, but I think the term ‘executive coach’ seems a lot more appealing to many. Who knows?

  • Connie: Would you rather hug an old lady, or kick a dog?
  • Person: Kick an old lady

That sounds accurate.

She hauls a woman up who is under 39, and she explains how the under 39s are those who are full of themselves and don’t wear watches, the 50+ folk have sore shoulders, are the glue that sticks everything together, and are the happiest generation…because they don’t care, and the 40-49 group are those who are angrier than all of the other generations.

She explains that the 39s and under are a generation who get rewards for showing up. She recommends all of the 39s and under get a watch…why? Because we apparently blow off 42.5 hours a year checking on the time.

There’s an activity: choose your shape: circle, square, triangle, squiggle – what resonates most with you?

  • Squares: Detailed, left-brained, specific, make lists, dependable, reliable (don’t ask them “does this make my butt look big?”), hardest woking individuals in the industry…according to them; no one knows what they do, because they’re territorial, are not the best team players
  • Triangles: A little bit temperamental and it’s unpredictable, don’t like negative feedback, perfectionists, argue unsatisfactory grades, are OCD, are the best multi-taskers in the room (triangle secret: they don’t finish anything – they have the lowest attention span in the room, will go to squares to finish their projects), are driven out of their mind by circles
    • Squares and triangles just want their brains to stop.
  • Circles: Married to squares, never finish stories, -hits head on microphone-, oblivious there is a speaker present, easily distracted, party people (first time I’ve heard that), social people (ONLY time I’ve heard that), love telling stories, have made people endure your stories, the stories are so far from accuracy, are the motivators of the world, make all other shapes disgusted at 7am (do not talk to triangles before 10 or they’ll slap you), and are the peacemakers of the world – other shapes DO NOT UNDERSTAND YOU – you hate hassles, confrontations, and want everyone to get along; you want everyone to be happy and to learn from you, you get your feelings hurt 34897294239 times per day, and you have a hard time saying “NO!”; the circle motto is “I’ll do it.”
    • Inside the brain of circles: they honestly believe from the depths of their soul that they were put on the Earth for a reason, for a destiny, to fix or rescue
      • I’m a circle and this is 500% accurate.
  • Squiggles: Are the idea people, half of the ideas are non-sense, have authority issues stemming from childhood
  • The Unidentifiers: No fun, grumpy, don’t feel the need to participate, are closet-squares, because those are the only people who wouldn’t stand

How do you find out what shape people are? Ask “How are you today?” Squares and triangles won’t say anything. Circles will think you genuinely want to know. Why do we have kids that we think aren’t ours? Because at 6 months, they look around and think “I don’t want to be like anyone else in the family.”

She hauls up another poor participant, Ed – A Square. She’s trying to teach us how to close a deal with a square. To illustrate this, she uses Ed. She asks “My office or your office?” and he says “My office.” If you call a meeting, it should be in the other individual’s office, because you’ll have a 60% increase in chances to close a deal if you go to them.

Now, let’s close a deal with a triangle. Close deals in their office because it’s all about power.

Circles and Squiggles: If you are not early for the meeting (1 minute early, or late), triangles and squares are DONE with you. Also – no one wants to be as close to you as you want to be to them. You spend a lifetime sending squares and triangles into a corner with your closeness and your small-talk. GET OUT OF HERE!

Overall: This session was a hilarious end session to a great week at ATD2018. I love Connie and her incredibly accurate account of individuals (or myself at the very least).

ATD ICE 2018 – Session Recap: Diana Howles

Session: How to Avoid the Top 10 Mistakes in Instructional Videos

Diana begins her session by explaining that she loves helping clients use multimedia effectively. 

The trend is forecasting that approximately 82% of all internet traffic will be video, by 2021. This means that we will need to leverage video within our training materials. But we need to ensure we’re doing this effectively. Not just for the sake of creating video.

Diana plans to show us 10 mistakes we make within instructional videos, because “we don’t know what we don’t know”, which is one of my all-time favourite quotes. 

Common mistakes to avoid:

  1. Visual and Audio Distractions
  2. Inadequate Lighting
  3. Poor Audio Quality
  4. Formal Reading of Script
  5. Rapid On-Camera Movement
  6. Lack of On-Camera Presence
  7. Awkward Positioning in the Frame
  8. Static Visual Content
  9. Long and Boring Openings
  10. Losing Sight of Intended Audience

She provided examples for each element, such as:

  • Not cutting off bodies on-camera at awkward angles
  • Bringing several wardrobe options to ensure there are no visual distractions based on wardrobe (e.g., creation of floating heads)
  • Avoiding background distractions (e.g., things behind the individual on camera, or open doors/closets)
  • Ensuring nothing is obstructing the video frame
  • Use settings conducive to the person on-camera (e.g., instructor in a classroom instead of outside).
  • Ensure the speaker is front-lit. Backlighting (e.g. speaker sitting in front of a window) will create a shadow over the speaker.

Diana also emphasized the importance of scripting your talking points so that you know where you’re going, but not sounding like you’re reading from a script. There are studies that have shown that conversational delivery is better for learning than reading formally to the audience.

She discussing being cognizant of on-camera presence, such as:

  • Direct eye contact toward the camera lens
  • Create a likeable and personable connection
  • Maintain high energy/topic enthusiasm
  • Ensure you’re maintaining a perception of expert credibility
  • Maintain a pleasant and natural smile
  • Use conversational and personal tone
  • Maintain a balanced pace and speaking rate

She explains that in video, you should ensure your speech is short and to the point. Avoid reading full scripts verbatim on-camera. To avoid long-winded intros and outros, Diana recommends shooting these sections of the video last, once the speaker has warmed up to the video-recording process. This tends to facilitate concise intros/outros.

On camera, objects appear as if they are large as they move toward the camera, so be conscious of this, especially with hand gestures/movements to maintain proportions.

Don’t lose sight of your intended audience! A good example of this is not using acronyms without defining them first. This is something that is the bane of my existence when I review written content, because not all individuals reading the content are familiar with the acronyms, so listening to someone talk at me in acronyms in a video would overwhelm me with confusion.

Overall: This was a great session, and really hammered home the importance of being conscious of a lot of basic information that may get lost in the shuffle of creating instructional videos, in order to raise the quality of videos and ensure the learning takes centre stage.

ATD ICE 2018 Keynote Recap: Marcus Buckingham

Keynote: Marcus Buckingham

Marcus begins by discussing the research he’s at ATD ICE to conduct. He explains his process for conducting this research. Using marriage as an example, he explains how if you study all of the unhappy and happy marriages, there is one thing in common: people argue a lot. Following the logic that good is the opposite of bad, so for a really good marriage, don’t fight. But this isn’t true. It’s the space between the fights that defines a really good marriage – the fights are a way to reconnect.

“You can’t infer what excellence looks like by studying failure.” (Buckingham, 2018)

They found a number of misconceptions…or lies…within their research. It’s very hard to stay on top of talent when you’re looking at a series of lies about work:

  1. People care which company they work for
  2. The best plan wins
  3. The best companies cascade goals
  4. Well-rounded people are better
  5. People crave feedback
  6. People can reliably rate other people
  7. People have potential
  8. We should seek work/life balance
  9. ‘Leadership’ is a thing

These nine lies are all about how we get the most out of talent. Work is a magnificent place in which a person gets to manifest their talent, but we can’t do it if we’re operating on the wrong assumptions or beliefs.

“Be dangerous.” (Buckingham, 2018)

Think about an outcome that can really get you to focus.

“Learning is helping someone discover the patterns that are already there. Learning is insight.” (Buckingham, 2018)

He explains that talent develops only because of other humans (recognizing your potential).

Overall: Marcus’ session was great, but he’s a very fast speaker, so I found it quite challenging to draft a comprehensive blog post for this keynote – my apologies.

ATD ICE 2018: Keynote Recap: Barack Obama

Keynote: Barack Obama

Everyone was insanely pumped to listen to the very articulate 44th President of the United States of America deliver his keynote address at ATD ICE 2018. I had never seen a lineup (that stretched around the convention centre) for a Learning & Development keynote. If I ever have the honour of keynoting an L&D conference or event…my lineup will be much smaller…understandably so haha.

My overall thoughts: I was not disappointed by Barack Obama’s inspiration, examples/analogies, and frankly, his ‘real-talk’. He was exceptionally down-to-earth, and emphasized the impact of going back to basics (e.g., your values) in order to succeed.

Obama begins his session with someone yelling “we miss you!” and him saying “I miss you too!” 

He discusses how the only thing they really had growing up was education. He mentions how his grandfather was able to receive his education because someone invested in him when he returned from the war, with the GI bill. His mother worked overseas to help impoverished women, because of her education. He would never have been born had his father not received a scholarship to come to America to receive an education. Everything hinged on education.

As important as family is, it’s also important to have a society that says it’s important to invest in the society. You are not defined by the circumstances in which you were born, but how hard you’re willing to work.

Obama talks getting ‘whooped’ in his run for Congress, and relates that to the concept of resilience. One of the things this whooping taught him, was to ensure you’re doing something because it’s the right thing to do, you have something in particular to offer, not just for the sake of doing something.

“Worry less about what you want to be, worry more about what you want to do.” (Obama, 2018)

He explains that society has become obsessed with wanting a title, or an office, and spend less time thinking about what they want to accomplish. He says that often times when this happens, in politics, people end up in Congress not knowing what they want to accomplish and how they want to impact the world. He says that you can end up rising above, by doing things that are important and meaningful to you, and things for which you are passionate about. Moving up in the world should be a byproduct of this passion.

“It’s great to be ambitious, but be ambitious in terms of what you want to accomplish, and not a title.” (Obama, 2018)

Obama explains that he is very proud that from the beginning of his campaign to the end of his presidency, they were able to provide young adults with opportunities that they may not have previously been exposed to. They consistently found that these individuals were able to feel as though they were part of something bigger.

“People respond when you expect a lot out of them.” (Obama, 2018)

On failing: He explains that it was okay for individuals to fail, so long as they learned from it. “Most things that are worth doing, are hard. If they were easy, everybody else would have done them already.”

He provided an analogy of coming home to his daughters after a long, difficult day at the White House. And he would say something to the effect of “adults don’t know how to do everything.” – a powerful sentence coming from a powerful individual. 

He emphasizes the importance of debriefing for failures AND for successes. This is how you improve. He discusses the importance of considering ‘everything that could go wrong’. This explanation is in relation to a very large-scale operation (the Bin Laden raid), but in everyday life and organizations, it’s still important to consider the implications of things that may go wrong. 

Not everyone on the team may be in agreement on any particular discussion. The only thing that lands on your desk, as the President, are things that don’t usually have a good solution, so you tend to work off of probabilities. For example, the auto industry bailout. Things were really bad. The economy was contracting faster than the Great Depression, but the White House was having to make decisions very quickly (e.g., a few weeks versus a few years) to ensure unemployment didn’t hit 25% or more. These decisions didn’t have great solutions, but the decisions made were necessary in order to assist the overall economy.

Takeaway: Not all decisions are popular, but they might be necessary. You need to consider your probabilities that are based on transparency and all sides being heard. You may not make the right decision, but you made the decision based on a very educated decision-making process. The decision wasn’t made in a silo.

When discussing the values that are most important to him, Obama explains that the older he gets, the more he comes to appreciate the old-fashioned homespun values that his grandparents and parents taught him: honesty, working hard, being kind, being useful, carrying your weight, being responsible, and these are the things he tries to transmit to his children and staff. He thinks that the values reflect how you interact with people on a day-to-day basis; the kinds of habits that you develop that transcend any particular issue or situation. As a consequence, these values become your foundation and baseline. Those values will get you through hard times and good times. They will allow you to sustain effort in a group, and influence your decision making. They’re the things that ultimately give meaning and purpose to what you do so that people are willing to go above and beyond surface elements, such as getting paid.

He explains that when he gets worried about things going on in society, he worries most about when the values of society are not being upheld. Our democracy cannot work, when we don’t insist on ‘facts’. You can’t make good decisions when you don’t at least agree on the facts. You can all have different opinions, but you can’t make good decisions if you don’t agree that a table is a table. It’s important for us to make sure that, regardless of our political proclivities, that the values underlying this great country don’t get eroded because situationally, in this particular circumstance, it’s ok to abandon our values in order to get what we want.” That kind of short-term thinking carries great consequences because democracy needs to be nurtured. Our kids do watch what we do, so if they see that adults aren’t honest, distort things, etc., over time, we’ll pay a price for that.

On becoming the President: “You had to learn very quickly to have thick-skin, and not to watch cable news.” (Obama, 2018)

What prepared him best were the principles he had cultivated over the course of 30-40 years. A habit such as discipline, for example. That’s not something you’ve learned the week you’re being sworn in. The thing about presidency that is hard is not the specifics, it’s the habits of performance. One thing he brought to the presidency that he found particularly useful was being able to take the long-view. Not getting too high when there were highs or too low when there were lows. These are not things you find in a manual.

When you’re most effective at working with others, is getting them to tap into their best selves. Where organizations don’t do such a great job, is often, helping individuals become better performers. 

On advice for getting people to change their thoughts and behaviours: He acknowledges that he cannot change until I recognize there is something about my current circumstance that I am not satisfied with. Recognize that change is hard, so being able to break up change into its parts (instead of the whole). You also need to acknowledge compromise – you may not get everything that you want out of change, but you can certainly get something. For example, the health care reform; what was interesting was individuals within your own party being upset that they hadn’t provided healthcare to everyone just yet. You need to acknowledge the compromise, and that change is a process. Instinctually, we understand change, but it’s very hard for us to remind ourselves and institutionalize change as a process. Part of why change is hard is that you’re always building off a legacy system, of “what is”. You can’t blame people for not wanting to rip out their existing situation to take a leap of faith entirely. You need to build a bridge for where people are, to where they want to be.

Last Question: Considering all that you know and all that you’ve experienced about the world challenges, you are genuinely optimistic about the future. Can you share why?

Obama explains that he is cautiously optimistic because society has some major challenges. Trend 1 – Technology is driving disruptive change that we are not prepared for; things will change quickly, and this will upend entire industries. Trend 2 – The world is shrinking, so we need to figure out how to get along with people who don’t look like us, and this makes people uncomfortable. These two trends will create stress in people, which may foster us versus them, instead of ‘we’. Trend 3 – Environmental issues, such as climate change, which is a fact, and this puts significant strain on communities around the world and creates issues of migration and increases in natural disasters. 

To paraphrase JFK: There are no problems, that man created that man cannot solve. 

He closes by saying that if we had to choose, we choose to be born here and now because there has never been a time in human history, where people were healthier, wealthier, more tolerant, educated. That doesn’t distract from the incredible tragedies that are happening everyday. We need to insist that we need to do better than we’re doing right now. The arc of human history is toward progress: things are getting better. 

He’s optimistic because the trend lines are pretty good, if you take the long-view, but he’s cautious because that progress is not inevitable. Progress is a result of each of us taking responsibility to make things a little bit better.

“If you’re kind and you’re useful, you’e going to live a pretty good life.” (Obama, 2018)