The Many Values of an Industry Conference

Scott, Margie, and I recently attended an annual industry conference called ISA—The Association of Learning Providers. ISA is a unique organization where members who are competitors in the training, learning, and talent development industry come together to help each other. The goal is to strengthen our industry through the strengths of each business by sharing our best practices.

Our company has been a member of ISA for more than 40 years. We love to attend these meetings because everyone is very upbeat and excited about exchanging ideas we can all benefit from. The only thing we don’t share is sales strategies. We always come away from this conference proud to be in our field and we never fail to bring home some good learnings. It’s a wonderful opportunity to spend time with knowledgeable, energy-filled colleagues in our industry.

While I was at the conference, I had a chance to visit with longtime colleagues Bill Byham, cofounder and executive chairman of DDI, and Jack Zenger, cofounder and CEO of Zenger Folkman and best-selling business author. We’ve all been in the leadership development business around six decades. Some would call us competitors, but I like to use the word co-petitor instead when I talk about people like Bill and Jack. Why? Because we have more things in common than we have differences—and we truly respect each other and our respective contributions. We really enjoyed being together at ISA and sharing stories.

A big takeaway for Margie, who has always been interested in exploring the future of our business, was learning more about artificial intelligence (AI) and its challenges and opportunities for our industry. She even went home after the retreat and tried out ChatGPT, an AI program that follows instructions and provides responses. Amazing!

From the ISA website: Founded in 1978, ISA remains committed to helping training, performance and talent development firms build, enhance, and share their success. Our membership includes more than 80 companies that are contributing to the success of more than 100,000 clients across the Fortune 500. Both in person and online, ISA members ask questions, share their knowledge, and engage in rich discussion and the roll-up-your-sleeves work of growing a business and keeping it strong. Members come together to learn key business insights, share their collective wisdom, expand their resources, and enhance their results. By creating a safe place for disclosure, the association focuses on developing the business acumen of its members to ensure their continued success for their businesses and their clients.

If you belong to an organization that participates in industry conferences or retreats, I urge you to attend one if you can. I guarantee you’ll learn things you never knew about your business. You’ll meet people you might stay in touch with for decades. And you’ll come back inspired and reenergized about your job, your team, your organization, and your industry.

Needless to say, I’m a big fan of industry conferences. In fact, our company is participating in a different conference in May—the ATD (Association for Talent Development) International Conference and Expo—which will be held right here in San Diego. I’ll tell you all about that event in a few weeks. Stay tuned!