Why Attend a Conference?

Why do people attend conferences to build their professional development portfolios? Can’t they get the required number of hours each year within their own company without having to pay high conference fees and travel to locations hours away? What is the benefit?

Instructors and content developers for Professional Development Workshops spend a great deal of time thinking about ways to serve clients. At the onset, we understand that employees need relevant training that allows them to build upon vast experiences. We understand employees are internally motivated to learn new things and they usually know what they need to know, which certainly helps in creating objectives for a workshop. But did you know that adult learning is often problem-centered?

Herein lies the benefit! Conferences and specially designed training and development workshops provide roadmaps that help employees solve problems and embrace new trends. Often this type of learning does not happen within the company. Training and Development Workshops are designed to skip over basic training knowledge and move directly to solving specific problems.

If you are a workshop leader or content creator, here are four steps to take so that you address the problem-centered needs of your clients:

  1. Know your audience. With any presentation, it is good to know who will be sitting in the seats. Once you know who will be in your audience, find out the work experience they have had with the industry. Ask employees to describe the type of problems they experience and rate the problems on a scale of 1 – 5. One being the least problem and five being the largest. Once you know this information, you will want to group attendees according to years of experience and types of problems experienced. This allows you to provide training that is group specific.
  2. Develop training to address problems. Begin with the list of problems the attendees provide. Group the problems listed into categories. Separate workshop and session titles according to categories. Some problems attendees provide may be addressed in current training programs, but content should be developed for problems that are never covered and for problems brought to light by current trends that emerge in the industry. Focus on the type problems and trends that you hear mentioned over-and-over again.
  3. Provide resources to address problems. Adult learners are internally motivated and self-directed. They have already provided you with a list of problems they are experiencing, so they will expect you to address the problems. This will help as they look forward to a professional development session and will see your workshop as a way to seek answers to problems they are experiencing. Adult learners will also choose to look further to find answers to their own problems, but they need direction and resources. With every possible answer to a problem, always provide resources so that training continues even after your workshop has ended.
  4. Create training sessions and workshops to match the experience level of attendees. With any class, some employees can skip a basic class and spend their valuable time in more advanced classes. There is no reason why professional development sessions should not be planned for this same type of progression.  New employees need a basic class; whereas, seasoned employees can opt to join more advance sessions. Learning happens as adult learners make sense out of what they have already experienced and acquire knowledge and skills to solve problems and create opportunities for growth. The worst thing you can do is to place a highly experienced person into a basic class. Let the employees choose sessions that will meet their own personal needs.

Understanding learner challenges and preferences will help trainers and content developers to meet the needs of the trainees. That, of course, results in positive attitudes toward training that provides so much more than explanations, descriptions, and definitions. With a variety of levels and sessions that attract various interests and experience levels, conferences and workshops become more sought after and appreciated as true benefits that outweigh the cost and travel.

We are anxiously anticipating the upcoming Georgia Continuing Education Association Conference to be held October 21 and 22, 2024 at the beautiful Sea Palms Resort in St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. Whether you are a trainer, industry leader, or professional in search of earning additional professional development credit hours as required by your employer, we hope you will visit our website and register: www.GaCEA.org.  Carefully designed sessions will cover problems and new trends, but our focus this year will be to “Discover the JOY in Training and Development.” Our keynote speaker, Joy Baldridge, is a joyful, dynamic speaker that has wowed crowds throughout the world. This is one conference that you do not want to miss, especially if your goal is to turn problems into opportunities.

For questions regarding membership, the conference, or details about the GCEA Organization, please contact our president, Cher Brister, at CBrister@GwinnettTech.edu.

Here’s to Problem-Solving,
Dr. Penny Joyner Waddell
GCEA Member at Large
Author, Training and Development Workshop Leader, and Coach