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How can everyone on your team learn from one person’s professional development experience?

On Thursday, I shared a short story about a recent team meeting that was nothing short of magical. One of my colleagues, Erin Clarke, had recently attended a virtual conference and shared a few of her take-aways with the rest of our team. As she shared, the team grew more curious about how the rest of us could apply some of the things Erin was sharing.

Perhaps you just returned from ATD’s International Conference and Expo. Perhaps you or someone on your team attended a virtual conference, or even a webinar. During today’s podcast, Erin and I talked a little more about how she was able to inspire the entire team with both curiosity and the desire to try new things by sharing her own virtual conference experience.

Transcript of the Conversation with Erin Clarke

Brian Washburn: Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a weekly podcast about all things learning and development in bite sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn, Co-founder and CEO of Endurance Learning, and your host for Train Like You Listen. And today I am joined by Erin Clarke, who is one of my colleagues at Endurance Learning – she is our Learning and Development Manager. Erin, thank you so much for joining us today.

Erin Clarke: Thank you for having me. I feel honored.

Brian Washburn: Well, I’m really excited to get into this conversation because today’s topic – we’re going to be talking about the importance of being able to share what you learned at a professional development experience. So it could be a conference or maybe a webinar or something like that. The importance of sharing what you may have taken away with other people on your team who didn’t attend that experience.

6-Word Biography

Brian Washburn: And so before we get into any of that other stuff we always like to have our guests introduce themselves using a six-word biography. And so when I think of this topic – about just being able to share what you learned with other people – I would say, “Conferences bring me energy and thoughts”. How about you, Erin? How would you introduce yourself in exactly six words?

Erin Clarke: (Chuckling) Yeah. So exactly six words – I cheated Brian. I chose four, which maybe that makes me an underachiever? I don’t know, but the alliteration was there and it just worked for me. So introducing myself in terms of conferences, I think of, “learning, listening, and leading”.

Brian Washburn: I think that’s perfect and honestly, you know, doing it in fewer than six is probably even more challenging, so you may actually be better than I at this game.

Erin Clarke: (Laughing)

Brian Washburn: But let’s talk about this because this idea came up when you had a chance to share with our team some of the things that you took away from the Regional ATD Coast-To-Coast Virtual Conference. And so the first question that I have for you is: what made you want to attend that particular conference?

Why Did You Choose to Attend the Regional ATD Virtual Conference?

Erin Clarke: Yeah, so good question. There were several draws for me about that particular conference. And as far as, kind of, context for me – during the height of the pandemic, you know, when schools and daycares and offices and all the things closed down, I decided to take some time to be home with my littles and let my main job be “mom” for a season. And I tried to remain connected to the L&D world as much as I could, but quite frankly it was really challenging and my energy was just needed elsewhere. 

So as I’ve gotten back into the professional sphere, I knew I wanted a professional development opportunity that would kind of give me a chance to get back out there, so to speak, and to reconnect and immerse myself in even like the language and the learning again. And this conference checked all those boxes for me. And then I think in addition to that, I am a member of ATD Puget Sound, so that was one of four chapters that hosted this conference. And so for me a draw was not only would I get to learn from people locally, but I would get to learn from a diverse group that I probably wouldn’t hear from otherwise. And so, you know, that was a secondary piece. And then I think the third piece was: it was a virtual. And so until today, like literally today, I’ve been home with all of my people, like many of us have. And so, because it was virtual, it was something I could do while being home as well.

Brian Washburn: Yeah, and that’s perfect. And I love hearing that answer because different people have different motivations for wanting to either go to a workshop or a class or a conference. And then people will go, they’ll learn some things, they’ll get energized, but then they get back to their offices or back to wherever they’re working in their corner of the house, right? And they kind of forget what they learned. How are you making sure that you don’t fall into this pattern? That, “Wow, that was a great experience. Now let me go back to business as usual”?

How To Make Sure You Don’t Forget What You Learned When Returning from a Conference

Erin Clarke: Totally. Well– and in full disclosure, I’m not always great at this, but I’m working at it.

Brian Washburn: Well, and that’s the thing. I don’t think that– I don’t know anybody who’s good at it.

Erin Clarke: Yeah, exactly. And so I think– the good news is we’re all in the same boat, like you said. (Chuckles)

Brian Washburn: Sure.

Erin Clarke: So I think for me what’s important when I attend a conference or a professional development event, I try to build in some accountability on the other end – so I’m compelled, if you will, to report back. I also really enjoy learning from others. So in the past, I’ve also scheduled time to debrief with people who attended the same conference – and maybe they went to a different session – so I can learn new things. Maybe they went to the same session and we get to just talk about our different takeaways. But that’s also helpful for me to kind of have that scheduled time to connect with someone else. And I’ve really found that if I don’t take the time to capture my thoughts and my learnings within that first week or two after the event, that energy is lost. It’s not totally gone, right? We can go back to our notes but if I can capture it right in the moment or as close to the moment as possible, it’s a richer feedback experience for myself.

Brian Washburn: Yeah. And so with this particular conference, what are you most excited about putting into practice?

What Are You Most Excited to Share and Use from the Conference?

Erin Clarke: So there were two sessions that got me particularly jazzed. One of the sessions, I learned some new PowerPoint tricks that were really inspiring. I feel so nerdy!

Brian Washburn: Which is really– no, that’s really funny to say because people are like, “Oh, I use PowerPoint all the time” right? And, “Why would I go to a session on that? There’s so many other things”. And this particular session, you and I have talked about this, is BrightCarbon

Erin Clarke: Yes.

Brian Washburn: –Who does these amazing things with this super powerful tool that most of us so underutilize. So can you talk a little bit more about that?

Erin Clarke: Absolutely. Well, it was kind of funny because in my current role I actually don’t use a lot of PowerPoint, but it was that inspiration. Like it got me thinking about, “Well, if PowerPoint can do this, then what can Storyline do? And how can we use some of that format? And just even that idea in some of the current projects that I’m working on?” And so again, I feel super nerdy being like, “A PowerPoint tips and tricks with my favorite one!” – but quite honestly, it really was.

Brian Washburn: Everybody who’s listening is probably the same level of nerdiness.

Erin Clarke: They’re nodding.

Brian Washburn: So it’s our people, yeah.

Erin Clarke: I also attended a session on “Appreciative Inquiry”, and this one was definitely more focused on the person, not necessarily like the output, the work. But I mean, you and I have talked before. We’re trying to bring our full selves to work. I think this pandemic has highlighted that more than ever before. And so they’re very much related, right? The internal and the external. But the session opened with a question that I just keep thinking about and has been really pivotal for me. And the question was: “what is the best thing that happened to me today?” And I find even in the midst of stressful projects or things that aren’t going well, or, you know, we’re up against deadlines or gosh, even kids fighting and driving me crazy – if I take time to reflect on the good, it really can help shift my mood and my energy. And it’s been really powerful for me.

Brian Washburn: And so when you had a chance to attend this, I had asked, “Would you mind sharing some of your key takeaways with the rest of our team?” And I wrote about this a little bit in last Thursday’s blog post, because I thought that was just a magical moment for me. It was a magical moment for the team because you started sharing and then everybody else started to build other ideas that you hadn’t even mentioned. But I’m kind of curious from you – what was helpful for you about being asked to share what you learned with the rest of the team?

How Does It Help You When you Share What You’ve Learned with Others?

Erin Clarke: Well, being asked was really helpful to me. It created that accountability that I had spoken about earlier – to help synthesize my experience and my learnings, but in a timely manner, right? I was like, “Okay, Brian needs me to do this”. 

I’m also– I’m a write things on paper kind of person. And so as I was at the conference, I’m using my pen and my notepad. And knowing that I was doing a showback, I then took all my chicken scratch and typed it up into some notes that felt like, “Okay, this will kind of make sense to someone else”. 

And then in this particular instance, because one of my big takeaways was a PowerPoint session, I actually was able to use some of what I learned to put together that pretty short 10 minute showback. And that was really neat for me because it felt like it was using all of the different learning experiences, right? Like I heard the session, I took my notes, I then rewrote my notes and then I actually practiced the skills that I was taught. And it really cemented for me some of those things that I had learned and gave me a chance to put it into practice.

Brian Washburn: Yeah. I love this whole conversation and I wish we could talk more about it. I’m just coming off of the ATD’s International Conference and Expo. I’m excited to share what I learned with the team once I get back into the office, and this is definitely one of those conversations that I hope that people who are listening also will take to heart. You know, if you’ve been– whether it’s an ATD Conference or whatever other conference– or if you have other people on your team who are going to these professional development events, it’s amazing what can happen when they come back and share with people who didn’t get to go. Because questions start to be asked and then, you know, you kind of build upon, you know, “Oh, this was your key learning, but, I wonder if we could do this with that?” And it just makes the whole experience better for everybody, as opposed to, you know, the person who goes just kind of keeping it to themselves. And so, thank you so much for giving me some time and sharing some of these thoughts.

Get to Know Erin Clarke

Brian Washburn: Before we go, I’d love for our listeners to get an opportunity to get to know you just a little bit more with a few speed-round questions. Are you ready for these speed-round questions?

Erin Clarke: I’m ready. Let’s do it.

Brian Washburn: All right. So the first question I have is: what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Erin Clarke: So the best piece of advice I’ve ever received is to “stay curious”, and that actually came from my mom. And I think it just applies to so many different situations, right? Like if we have this learning curiosity mindset, whether it’s a relationship that is feeling stuck or a project that’s feeling stuck. I mean, I see this with my kids all the time – I still have young little ones, and so I get asked “why” like probably a hundred times a day. (Chuckles) But the more questions they ask, it’s helping them sort out the world and make sense of things. And I think that’s really true for us as adults, too. The more curious we can be, the more we can learn. So, stay curious.

Brian Washburn: Yeah, I love that piece of advice. And while we’re speaking of conferences and the ATD Conference, one of the keynote speakers was Patrick Lencioni who wrote Five Dysfunctions of a Teambut he has something new out about the six different types of genius that you can bring to work. And one of those is “The Wonderer”, which is that idea of you need to have somebody on the team who’s curious. And so I hope you always stay curious for us. What’s the value for you of joining the local ATD chapter?

Erin Clarke: Oh, man. I don’t know if I can say enough good things about local ATD chapters. I also know this is supposed to be quick. (Laughing)

Brian Washburn: (Laughing)

Erin Clarke: I will just say some of the words that come to mind: connection and relationship, place to try and grow. And my caveat there is I have volunteered through various roles in our local chapter and have just found it such a great place to try on a new hat and to get feedback and to learn from that. The professional development and the learning has just been awesome. So you should probably cut me off, (Chuckles) but I’m a big fan of local ATD chapters.

Brian Washburn: Yeah. Well, and so for people who are listening, Erin and I, before we started working together, we met many years ago through our local ATD chapter.

Erin Clarke: Yes!

Brian Washburn: And so I think that it is a great place for making those connections, like you said, trying new things, experimenting, getting the feedback, volunteering, getting involved and things like that. And so the last question that I have for you, Erin, before we leave is: what should people in L&D be listening to – maybe podcasts – or reading?

Erin Clarke: This is such a good question, and my answer might be a little non-traditional. So I think people at L&D should be reading or listening to the things that interest them. And you know, for me, and – this is probably true for most people – that’s what keeps our attention. Like when we switch from “I have to” to “I want to”, it makes it so much easier to engage and to learn. And so my advice is to dig into the areas and reading and listening to things that you’re curious about and that you’re interested in learning more.

Brian Washburn: I love the answer. Erin, thank you so much for joining us. And thank you for sharing some of your experiences from that virtual conference and kind of a meta conversation about how that– sharing of that was helpful to you. Hopefully it’s helpful to other people who are listening. 

To everyone else, thank you so much for listening to another episode of Train Like You Listen, which can be found weekly on Spotify, on Apple, iHeart Radio or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you like what you hear, please go ahead and share it: on Twitter, on LinkedIn, other places – because that’s how other people will find out about this too. Until next time, happy training everyone.

This week’s podcast is sponsored by Soapbox. Sign up today for a free demo below.

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