ATD International Conference Planning Guide Checklist

There are lots of great reasons to attend the ATD International Conference 2019—the learning and development conference that digs deep into the latest trends, best practices, and new solutions for designing, delivering, implementing, and measuring learning programs. If you’re attending this year, this conference planning guide will help you get the most out of your ATD event experience.

Event Details | Pre Conference | At the Conference | Post-Conference | The Backchannel

Photo by SEVA /


  • Title: 2019 ATD International Conference & Expo (ATD ICE)
  • Dates: Sunday May 19 – Wednesday May 22, 2019
  • Location: Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC | USA
  • Website:


Photo by ATD /


Ensuring you will get the maximum value from your conference experience starts before the event even begins. With an event of this size, you have to walk in with a plan.

Plan Your Agenda

  • Document Your Conference Goals
    • Why are you attending the event? What challenges are you facing within your organization that you hope to overcome through this learning experience?
  • Confirm Your Travel Plans
    • Make sure your flights are scheduled appropriately and you have a plan for getting from the airport to the hotel/convention center (Uber & Lyft are both available in DC).
  • Set Your Out-of-Office Reply
    • Work will still be there when the conference is over! Do your best to focus on the event experience and not get distracted by the day-to-day.
  • Download the ATD Events App
    • The app is the easiest way to plan your conference activities and stay up-to-date with the latest changes and announcements.
  • Add the General Sessions
    • Be prepared to show up early for the two morning general sessions if you want to get a good seat (especially for Oprah).
  • Find Your Favorite Speakers
    • Scroll through the ‘Speakers’ list on the app and favorite L&D pros you definitely don’t want to miss.
    • Rebecca Sinclair, Chief People Officer at American Tire Distributors (not to be confused with ATD) will be speaking with Axonify on the Monday @ 4:00pm. If you’re interested, the details are here
  • Select Education Sessions
    • Use the ‘Schedule’ area in the app to review each ‘Sessions’ time slot. Add at least two (2) sessions of interest to your schedule in each slot (one primary and one backup).
  • Add the Expo Lunches
    • Lunch is included in the conference registration on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • Mark Expo Vendors of Interest
    • Scroll through the ‘Exhibitors’ list on the app and favorite the vendors you definitely want to speak with in the Expo Hall.
    • PS – We’re on the app!
  • Make After-Hours Plans
    • Arrange any predetermined meetings or dinners that will take place during the conference.


  • Devices (smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.)
  • Comfortable Shoes (lots of walking around conference center)
  • Light Jacket/Sweater (room temperatures can vary)
  • Backup Power (you don’t want to have to stop your day to plug in your phone)
  • Headphones (for taking calls during the event)
  • Notebook (for taking notes)
  • Business Cards (because they’re still a thing)


  • Check in to your hotel
    • Get settled wherever you’re staying but don’t relax just yet.
  • Head to the convention center to register
    • Avoid the crowds by registering as soon as you arrive in DC. Check the app for registration times.
  • Explore the conference space
    • Wander the space to find the most important locations, including the general session room, expo hall, bookstore, work spaces and locations for your top-of-list education sessions.
  • Review your registration materials
    • Flip through all of the materials included in your conference bag. Keep what you’ll need. Recycle what you won’t.
  • Visit the conference bookstore
    • Browse merchandise offerings before the crowds show up and nab all of the most popular publications.
  • Attend pre-conference workshop (if applicable)
    • If you registered for a pre-conference activity, you’ll have a full day of interactive learning already on your agenda.
  • Attend early education sessions
    • Several great education sessions are offered on Sunday, before the full conference starts on Monday. The newcomer orientation is also hosted on Sunday if this is your first ATD ICE.
  • Get a good night’s rest
    • You’ll be going hard for 3 – 4 days. Rest up!


Photo by ATD /


Conference days are packed with activity. Your planning effort so far will help you get the most out of each day, but you should also remain flexible along the way.

  • Network
    • The most powerful learning experiences at the conference take place in the halls and over lunch as you meet peers who are facing the same challenges as you. Sit next to new people. Introduce yourself. Visit the International Village. If you’re attending with a team, take time to yourself so you can meet peers from around the world. Make meal plans for the end of your conference day so you don’t dine alone.
  • Review the Daily Update
    • ATD will release agenda updates via the app and on-site publications each morning, which may include changes to sessions and other conference activities.
  • Attend General Sessions
    • Be up early Monday and Tuesday to get a good seat for the general sessions.
  • Visit the Expo
    • Start by visiting the vendors you favorited in the app. Then, make time to wander the expo hall to explore new and popular products. Ask your peers what they found most interesting. Don’t get distracted by the swag!
  • Attend Education Sessions
    • Start with your first choice session in each slot. Get to the room 15-20 minutes early. Sit next to someone you don’t know. If the session isn’t meeting your expectations in the first 10 minutes, leave and head to your second choice.
  • Take Advantage of Lunch Time
    • Sit with people you don’t know. Start a conversation about your professional work and conference experience. Ask for recommendations on sessions, speakers and expo vendors. Exchange contact information if you’d like to connect in the future. Use extra time to catch up on email, make phone calls or explore the expo.
  • Share Insights and Resources
    • Engage in the global backchannel conversation via social media using the conference hashtag #ATD2019. Share links to resources and insights you collect along the way.
  • Reflect on Today
    • Take 30 minutes at the end of each day to review your notes and reflect on your experience. What were the highlights and key takeaways? Write down your big insights for future review and sharing.
  • Plan for Tomorrow
    • Review your conference agenda for tomorrow. What are your can’t miss activities? What changes should you make based on your experience so far?


Photo by ATD /


The conference will be an awesome experience, but what you do with the information you collected AFTER the event is what really matters. Schedule time upon your return home for the following activities.

  • Curate
    • Review all of the resources you gathered at the event. What will you use moving forward? What can be set aside? Organize content based on the problems the information may help you solve.
  • Reflect
    • What were your biggest takeaways from the conference? How can you start to apply your new learnings to your everyday work?
  • Connect
    • A conference is just one way you can engage in the professional community. Review all of those business cards you collected and determine who you want to connect with moving forward. Send LinkedIn invitations. Email people directly. Follow people on Twitter. Keep the conversation going!
  • Share
    • In any community, what you get back you put in. Find ways to share your insights with your peers – both inside and outside your company. Blog. Vlog. Tweet. Podcast. Present. Whatever works best for you.
  • Experiment
    • A great idea is only an idea until it goes into action. Work with your team to introduce your new concepts through targeted experiments before making larger changes to organizational strategy.


Photo by ATD /


If you can’t make it to DC, here are a few ways you can get value from the ATD ICE experience.

  • Conference Website
    • Review the conference agenda to identify the prevailing conversations in the industry. Find speakers who are sharing information that may be of value to you and connect with them.
  • Social Media
    • Follow the conference hashtag #ATD2019 on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Join in the conversation by commenting on shared resources and insights. Curate resources shared before, during and after the event.
  • Resource Curators
    • Several dedicated ATD ICE resource curators will emerge around the event. Here are a few examples:
      • David Kelly: curates a backchannel list of resources for L&D events
      • #ATD2019 on Flipboard: collection of resources, photos and videos from the conference experience curated by LearnGeek

And lastly, make sure you stop by Axonify at booth #627. We’ve got some fun prizes to give away, in-booth activities planned and, most importantly, great resources for you to take away!

Enjoy your time in DC with your amazing professional community. See you there!

JD Dillon became an expert on frontline training and enablement over two decades working in operations and talent development with dynamic organizations, including Disney, Kaplan and AMC. A respected author and speaker in the workplace learning community, JD also continues to apply his passion for helping frontline employees around the world do their best work every day in his role as Axonify's Chief Learning Architect.

Let’s work together to drive frontline performance in all the right ways.