20 Key Takeaways from ATD 2019

• 5 min read

Here are the highlights from ATD 2019

ATD 2019, the world’s largest, most comprehensive event for talent development and learning professionals, is in the books and what an insightful four days it was in Washington D.C.  From Oprah presenting her key life mantras, to in-depth conversations on the future of learning, ATD had no shortage of actionable takeaways. In fact, we’ve compiled our list of the top 20 highlights from this year’s sessions and keynotes.


Session – Is the LMS Dead? Highlights from the Latest Research

Thomas Stone from the Institute for Corporate Productivity shared research from ATD and i4cp and their study on the LMS and its future, here are 3 highlights:

1. The LMS is not dead and is actually increasing daily in importance within organizations. But, the user experience needs to be modern and similar to consumer technology because “people don’t want to be the Jetsons at home but the Flinstones at work”.

2. 79% of high performing organizations have increased their use of an LMS in the past 2 years. Nearly half of all organizations are planning for an LMS in the next year.

3. Only 25% of high-performance organizations (and 10% of low performing organizations) are prepared for the capability gap arising from advance work automation.


Session – Measurements that matter

Panel discussion with learning leaders from PPD, Explorance and Verizon and also Patti Phillips from the ROI Institute covering how to measure and demonstrate the value of L&D. These were some standout points.

4. What organizations value is the impact L&D has on the organization. 96% of organizations need to see an impact but only 8% of organizations actually feel like they are able to.

5. CLO Magazine found that 71% of organizations are planning to find a way to find the impact and according to another study what’s most important to organizations when it comes to the L&D program is the impact, ROI then awards.

6. Finding scalable measurements is key. Don’t try and find a holistic all-LMS-encompassing metric, but instead, take a micro approach to individual programs and scale from there.


Session – The Neuroscience of Learning and Memory

Carmen Simon, Cognitive Neuroscientist, shared insights on the science of attention and memory,  how to gain your audience’s attention, hold it, and help them build lasting memories.

7. People forget 90% of what you share according to their research. Your audience only remembers 10%. Can you control that 10% and impact decisions?

8. We all have mental models that help us throughout the day. For example, when you go to the grocery store and something you usually buy is in a different place, you get thrown off. Breaking a pattern within a presentation of learning can help to bring back attention. If the brain can’t predict what will come next, you’ll drive higher engagement and much higher memory retention.


Session – The Future of Measurement: Maximizing the Value of Talent Development

This panel discussion with learning and development leaders from Plains All American, Gilead Sciences, Inc., Comcast and Choice Hotels covered many the many ways of showcasing L&D’s value. Here’s one of those methods.

9. Use an impact map to present learning ROI – a map of L&D’s strategy and the business outcomes e.g. this training leads to this outcome.


Session – The Business Case for Learning

Patti Phillips, PH.d, CPLP from the ROI Institute provided 8 steps to build a business case for investing in people.

10. Design your learning programs with a reverse-engineering approach and follow these 8 steps.

  1. Start with why – Align programs with the business.
  2. Make it feasible – connect each and every program within a learning platform to other departments and specific business goals/needs
  3. Expect success – Figure out why you’re doing what you’re doing and how best to address the need.
  4. Make it matter
  5. Make it stick
  6. Make it credible
  7. Tell the story of what happened
  8. Optimize results


Session – Oprah Winfrey Keynote

Oprah Winfrey is a global media leader, philanthropist, producer, actress and her keynote was full of words of wisdom from a career spanning 40+ years.

11. Anytime you make a decision based on your ego, it will backfire every time.

12. Trust your gut instinct. People seek validation to know that they matter –  As a talent developer, make them feel validated within the space they hold.


Session – Today’s Trends in Digital Learning Experiences

Nick Floro from Sealworks Interactive gives an in-depth look at what tools, design, and technologies we should be focused on in learning today.

13. Do what makes sense for your audience/learners, don’t just choose a technology because it’s new.


Session – Seth Godin Keynote

Seth Godin is an entrepreneur, bestselling author, and speaker. His talk focused on beginning to bring a new perspective to the world of work and talent development.

14. The old industrial model was built on compliance – e.g. follow these rules to be more productive. But the idea that employees have to be standard cogs in a system is done.

15. Our world is now based on connection, not compliance. The New Economy is all about: Coordination, trust, permission, the exchange of ideas, Built on a foundation of generosity and art (creating things).

16. The top skills we want in an employee are learnable, they are soft skills and real skills, that can be taught.


Session – Women in Learning Tech: Modern Approaches to Driving Learner Engagement

Panel discussion on using learning technology with Carlye Greene from Capital One, Alyson DeMaso from The Estée Lauder Companies and Amy Borsetti from LinkedIn Learning Solutions.

17. How do you get learners to make the time and invest their brain power in training? Marketing learning within the company to get learners to pay attention to what is available.

18. The learning tech stack has exploded but you need the culture of continuous learning first. The tech is the gasoline and the people are the engine.


Session – The Now and Next of Learning and Technology in 2019

David Kelly from The eLearning Guild explained what’s available and what’s next for learning and technology.

19. If you want to predict how technology will change how people learn. You have to look at how technology is changing the way we live.

20. We tend to approach new technology with the wrong question: Instead of asking “How do I do what I do with new tech?” We should be asking “How does that new tech enable me to do what I could never do before?”


Want to learn more about the future of learning technology and how it will impact your L&D outcomes?