Sunday, 10 March 2013

ASTD Conference 5 - 7 March 2013 - Part 1

I have just returned from ASTD South Africa's 2013 conference in the Drakensberg.

Three days (and nights) of intensive learning, sharing and networking, I am glad it coincided with the end  of the week so that I could recover over the weekend.

I recommend that anyone involved in workplace learning budget and plan to attend next year's event. I attend 10 - 20 HRD related conferences and events every year and would rate this in the top 3 available.

Below some highlights from the notes I made and the photos I took. Please feel free to post questions for more details in the comments section below.  I am a beginner when it comes to photography, so the pics are pretty rough.

Why is it so good? 

It was the first ASTD event that I attended, so I want to just comment briefly on my perception of why its different, and better than, many of the other HRD events available at the moment:
  • Its not as big as the IPM Annual Conference (about 200 people versus about 900 people) - you don't feel lost in a sea of people you need to talk to but will never get around to more than just greeting. This means that you also get to chat to the international and local guest speakers more freely. 
  • Hosted at Champagne Sports Resorts its not as noisy and distracting as Sun City can be
  • The level of networking and interaction with peers seems somehow more coherent and convergent, possibly because there are only 200 people there
  • The quality of content presented is very high and the relevance of the information is also high, possibly because the ASTD does a lot of research work into effective HRD, and also seems better able to attract international specialists in these fields (they launched their latest State of the Training Industry training report in one of the sessions)
  • Another interesting fact is that most of the speakers hung around for the rest of the conference, and sat in on the other sessions, unlike other events where they disappear immediately their show is over.

The story in pictures and words

So lets begin, letting my camera lead the way...

After traveling down to KZN from Joburg on the ASTD bus, we arrived at 1.30 pm at Champagne Sports Resort, just in time for the 2pm start.


 The ASTD theme, "New Learning for Extraordinary Performance", greets us in the main plenary session - as well as a deliciously cold aircon.


Bruno Rouffaer and Idah Zwane-Dlomo, the first two speakers, chat in the foreground while Robin Probart (President ASTD South Africa) makes final preparations before the start in the background.


Robin welcomes everyone and talks about the need to go beyond "yesterday's logic", conquer the "data overload" facing us all, and move into a new mode of collaboration which is the most effective way to solve the latest HRD challenges. 


Bruno took the first plenary session with an insightful and very motivating presentation called, "Big Bad Boss Era is Over". In his Belgian-English accent he pointed out that a fundamental change in the nature of work relationships was taking place, and the leader of tomorrow would be very different from the big bad boss stereotype. Some of the interesting points Bruno made:
  • Youth immigration to Europe starting to reverse, due partly to the recession, but also because young Turks, for instance, feel alienated in a Europe that sees them as Turks rather than as human beings. They are going back to Turkey and taking valuable skills and experience with them back to their home countries. At the same time many native Europeans, such as Spanish youth, are heading to Latin American countries to look for work.
  • China's population of higher education students is 125 million people, India: 130 million
  • It was the protest of a Tunisian higher education student, Mohamed Bouaziz that triggered the Arab Spring and removed four governments from power with several others waiting in line

  • If Wikipedia were a book, it would contain 2,25 million pages and take 123 years to read - evidence of the enormous power the internet has given us to reinvent economic, social and knowledge relationships
  • More than 50% of the world's population is under the age of 30 - the new generation of youth entering the workplace are looking for a holistic level of meaning that unites their work and personal life  and does not split them into conflicting roles
  • The why component of learning is very important to the younger generation and needs to be understood before the how and what components


Interestingly Bruno owns a farm in Hluhluwe, KZN, and spends about a third of his time in South Africa, and the rest in Europe. His South African life includes supporting the Isibani Community Centre in Winterton. If you are interested in more from Bruno he has just published his book (by the same title as the presentation) and it can be ordered here.

Please check back to this blog post during the course of this week when I will be adding more pictures and snippets from the conference.

Click here to jump to Part 2 of the ASTD Conference feedback.