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In this episode of Tangents with TorranceLearning, hosts Meg Fairchild and Megan Torrance discuss Megan’s recent experience at the TechKnowledge conference. They delve into the unique format of the conference, the sessions Megan presented, and the emergence of artificial intelligence in the learning and development space.

Key points from the episode include:

Show Credits:

Hosts: Meg Fairchild and Megan Torrance

Producer: Dean Castile

Music: Original music by Dean Castile


Meg Fairchild [00:00:01]:

Hey, Megan, let's do a podcast.

Megan Torrance [00:00:03]:

Great idea. What should we talk about?

Meg Fairchild [00:00:16]:

So, Megan, I know last week you got back from tech knowledge.

Megan Torrance [00:00:23]:

What's that all about? Tech knowledge. And not everybody knows about technology, but it's a fun conference. So ATD, the Association for Talent Development, puts on the big jumbo conference every year. And tech knowledge, or TK, is a smaller, very tech forward conference. It's got a fun vibe. There's just something fun. I don't know, it's something fun about it. It's got a great speaker lineup.

Megan Torrance [00:00:51]:

And what's cool is that it's where ATD sort of experiments with different formats and different ways of running a conference. And so that's always cool to see, too.

Meg Fairchild [00:01:03]:

Yeah. When you say smaller, how much smaller.

Megan Torrance [00:01:06]:

This is, boy, I'm not good at estimating people, but I'm somewhere like 1000. So not micro, but not the 11,000 people who show up.

Meg Fairchild [00:01:16]:

Yeah. You're not gonna know everybody's name when you leave.

Megan Torrance [00:01:19]:

No, no. You're not going to know everybody's name when you leave, but you will definitely, like, you'll recognize almost everybody.

Meg Fairchild [00:01:28]:

Nice. You go to a lot of conferences. What did you do at tech knowledge that was different or unique?

Megan Torrance [00:01:36]:

Well, I did a little bit of the tried and true. So I did do one of my, my big talks right now is on Xapi and using that for data and analytics, specifically in instructional designer kind of capacity. So. And that's, it goes along with the book that I wrote. And we start there. We talk a little bit about Xapi. We talk what is analytics, and we spend a lot of time on what is the cycle for actually doing analytics, both macro and then a project level. And that was done as a super session.

Megan Torrance [00:02:13]:

So one of these things that ATD does that's interesting and neat is they run a session or a bunch of sessions that are both live in a room, just like a regular conference. And they're generally big stage sessions in the main room, but then also simulcast to folks who signed up for the online only version. So what was really cool, right? So I'm presenting to this gigantic room of people and the big lights and the big screen and everything, and in the footer, footer screens where they put your slides so you can see you don't have to crane your neck back and you, you can pretend that you know what's on the next slide, but they also then have the feed from the chat, so you get the best of both worlds. So I'm watching the chat and I'm like literally calling out the names of people in the chat. I don't know the names of anybody in the room, but I can see the specific comments of people in the chat as I'm talking. So kind of the best of both worlds and a lot of fun. And I did some new stuff. I talked, I had several sessions on artificial intelligence and its role in the learning data ecosystem and that overall strategic process of building that out.

Megan Torrance [00:03:18]:

I had a session with Jim Goodell, which was super fun, and then had a discussion session on the end at that.

Meg Fairchild [00:03:26]:

So you've done a lot in the past on Lama and agile for learning and development. Xapi, all that stuff is like tried and true stuff. But I know you've added the AI to your conference stuff. Why pulling that in now?

Megan Torrance [00:03:48]:

Because everybody's doing AI. If I don't, everybody. So all kidding aside, everybody's talking about AI. That entire conference could have been called AI in learning and development.

Meg Fairchild [00:04:03]:


Megan Torrance [00:04:04]:

And that was powerful. Actually, Chris King from apply synergy said to me, said, you can't always see the future, but I can tell you, not in e learning alone. And that was just one of those things, like, whoa, so AI is everywhere, but at the same time, I'm not just paying lip service because everybody's talking about it. You know me, I'm not super trendy, so that's not my vibe, really. We've been doing here at Toronto some really cool work and some cool thinking about AI and its place in our work. And what I'm finding as I go out to conferences is that it's really resonating with people. And when I find something that really resonates, that helps me develop it. So I develop it by speaking about it and speaking with people about it, and then I'm sharing it with more and more audiences as we go.

Megan Torrance [00:04:57]:

So that was really, that was really a big thing for me in this conference.

Meg Fairchild [00:05:03]:

Yeah, I know. When you've brought a few things to our team around AI, specifically the why is that AI framework that you've been kind of putting out there. That for me was like, whoa. Like totally resonated, totally kind of like clicked a few things for me about how we move forward with AI. So I'm excited to talk to you about that more.

Megan Torrance [00:05:26]:

But, well, I mean, I have to say, the day I shared, why is it AI with you? The look on your face was like, oh, maybe this is something that's really going to, like, be relevant. So you added into that thinking in a big way.

Meg Fairchild [00:05:42]:


Megan Torrance [00:05:43]:

So and I think, I mean, if we could kind of go off a little tangent there. The early on in the AI space, I realized I am way too busy and there are way too many things and new tools coming out daily. I mean, just, it's incredible. There's no way we could ever be on top of all of the tools. I just don't have time because I'm talking about Lama. I've done Xapi. I've got a business to run, like all sorts of things, but thinking about responsible and ethical use and how do we put AI in place with all the other things that an organization does strategically, that seemed to be something that both we have a point of view on, and it's something that we could keep up with, quite honestly. So that's a piece there.

Meg Fairchild [00:06:36]:

There's a lot to keep up with there that is overwhelming at times.

Megan Torrance [00:06:41]:

But yeah, and there's people out there, right? So TK was great, right? Because Myra Roldan, Josh Cavaliere, Sarah Mercier, there are all sorts of people who are, who have a handle on all those tools and the things that are coming out and what is the next new shiny. And they've used it, they've tried it. And so those are fantastic people to follow. And I follow those people.

Meg Fairchild [00:07:02]:

Yeah. Speaking of all those people, now, I think I was back home and I was seeing things come through on LinkedIn about technology and what was happening there and the AI stuff. There's some interesting things that were posted there. You want to talk about that a little bit?

Megan Torrance [00:07:21]:

Are you talking about the AI boyfriend, speed dating hackathon? Yep. Yep.

Meg Fairchild [00:07:26]:

That was it.

Megan Torrance [00:07:28]:

That's probably worth an entire episode itself. But how about this, right? The premise, there's multiple premises. I think in layers, there's multiple premises there. One was that it was just technology is all about trying new ways to conference. And I have to say the folks at ATD were incredibly flexible about me and a group of friends basically foisting something onto their program that they weren't expecting. So hats off to the ATD team for that. But really, the premise of that had nothing to do with the boyfriend. The premise had to do with can we build, finally, instead of the same train sheep dip training, that everybody gets the same thing because we just don't have the capacity or the time or the funds to build personalized training.

Megan Torrance [00:08:29]:

Can we now that we have AI, use that to build highly specialized, very personalized characters for either role plays or coaches to give you feedback? And what's more highly specialized and personalized than your partner. So, yeah, let's have another episode on that one.

Meg Fairchild [00:08:47]:

Yeah, sounds like a good idea.

Megan Torrance [00:08:50]:

All right.

Meg Fairchild [00:08:50]:

So, Megan, I know you go to a lot of different conferences throughout the year. Why should people consider maybe checking out technology in 2025?

Megan Torrance [00:09:00]:

So technology 2025 is going to be probably early February, that time of year. There's nothing else going on in the technology space for L and D. So it's a great. If that's your time to conference, that is a great conference to go to. ATD members get a discount, and so that's a nice wrap in. And technology is all the tech, but not the crowd. So if you're not a big crowds person, if you're not a big expo person, it's a nice size for this. So that appeals to some folks.

Megan Torrance [00:09:36]:

I know some folks on our team have gone to tech knowledge instead of some of the other big ones just because it feels better to them.

Meg Fairchild [00:09:42]:

Yeah, that's awesome. Did you actually get to make it to a keynote this time? Because I know sometimes you're a busy bee in a million other little places.

Megan Torrance [00:09:53]:

So I actually did go to the keynote. There were two keynotes at the end, and the one that really is sticking with me is Mick Ebling's keynote. He's from not impossible labs right there in Los Angeles. And it was like time melted away. He just told story after story of hacking together solutions to solve deep human problems, and they were stories that give you goosebumps, and, like, I've got goosebumps now, just talking about it, right? The ones that literally, you kind of, like, look straight ahead and hope nobody notices that you've got a tear in your eye because they just. It was so powerful. And he talked about, like, you can't solve all the problems for all the people, but you can just do one. He said it a lot more eloquently than that.

Megan Torrance [00:10:50]:

Right. But you solve the problem for one person, and that's the first iteration, and that then lets you solve problems for more people, and then you build it at scale, and. And then other people see that you're solving problems, and, well, they can do that, too. And then the people you solve problems for start solving problems for other people because their problems have been solved, and it's just so powerful. And one of the things that he wrapped up with that I thought was awesome was this commit, then figure it out. So his whole thing was around. Like, he'd get so passionate and so moved about solving a problem, he'd say, yes, I'll do it. And he would have no idea how to do it, and he'd pull together a bunch of people, and they would figure it out as they went.

Meg Fairchild [00:11:36]:

That reminds me a little bit of what we're doing right here, because we've decided we're gonna try this podcast we've committed. We're in a recording studio right now figuring it out. We're gonna figure it out.

Megan Torrance [00:11:54]:

We don't know what we're doing, but we're figuring it out, and we're having fun.

Meg Fairchild [00:11:57]:


Megan Torrance [00:11:58]:

So I like it. Awesome. Let's do it.

Meg Fairchild [00:12:02]:

I can't laugh now.

Megan Torrance [00:12:14]:

All right.

Meg Fairchild [00:12:14]:

How'd that one go, Megan?

Megan Torrance [00:12:16]:

That was super fun, because I loved technology this year. I just. Sessions were great. I got to think about our work, our business, new technology, hang out with my friends, do something absolutely over the top. Yeah, it was a good conference. So fun to talk about.

Meg Fairchild [00:12:35]:

Cool. This is Meg Fairchild and Megan Torrance, and this has been a podcast from Torrance learning.

Megan Torrance [00:12:43]:

Tangents is the official podcast of Torrance learning, as though we have an unofficial one. Tangents is hosted by Meg Fairchild and Megan Torrance. It's produced and edited by Dean Castile, with original music also by Dean Castile. We did not bother to fact check this episode.