Matthew McConaughey Inspired Me and 8,000 Other People

I finally had the opportunity to attend an ATD International Conference & Exposition, known as ICE by true ATD-ers. This year’s event in New Orleans featured a stellar lineup of keynote speakers, a broad range of learning sessions, and countless opportunities for relationshipping and professional growth.

Matthew McConaughey Was There

Known for his captivating storytelling and unique perspective on life, Matthew McConaughey’s keynote, “Greenlights: Rethinking Success and Leadership,” drew from his personal experiences and professional journey. He shared insights from his #1 New York Times bestselling memoir, Greenlights, which chronicles his life’s pivotal moments and the lessons learned along the way. 

His speech emphasized the importance of resilience, authenticity, and embracing life’s challenges as opportunities for growth. McConaughey’s engaging storytelling and down-to-earth wisdom resonated deeply with attendees, leaving them inspired to lead with courage and creativity in their own careers​.

And So Was Artificial Intelligence

That section about Matthew McConaughey was written with ChatGPT (except for the picture I took from wayyyy in the back). Since I got home from the conference, I’ve been challenging myself to use more AI tools. I’m a Millennial, I’m no Zoomer digital native. 

I’m excited about the potential of AI in helping HR and TD professionals provide higher quality services, and I’m also bristling at the fact that I’m not very good at using it yet. I like being good at things (set up for the next section on Daniel Pink!), and I’m not good at AI. But I’m trying. That’s probably the biggest takeaway for me from ATD42; none of us in talent development are all that good at using AI just yet, but we’re trying! 

I Filled Up My Notebook

I took feverish notes during every session I attended. I’m usually the one just taking pictures of the slides (I still did) and maybe sending myself links to view later. ATD24 was so juicy for me that I had to scribble down everything everyone said for 4 days. 

My favorite note that I immediately shared with the HPC team was from Daniel H. Pink, one of our all-time favorite authors. He’s cheeky. He grounds his writing in real, relevant research. The quote I wrote down, underlined, and sent to the team was, “Make a To Don’t List”. 

This is a picture of a notebook held up in front of the stage at a conference. The notebook has the words, "Make a To Don't List" written on it.

For context, Dan meant that sometimes we get so stuck on “getting sh*t done” that we get in our way. In his own life, his To Don’t List includes things like:

  • Don’t start the day answering emails 
  • If I’m not willing to do it next week, don’t say yes to it 

Dan also says he keeps a notebook at his desk that is specifically for acknowledging and recording progress. At the end of every day, he writes down 3 ways he made progress. He admits that he never looks at it again, but the act of writing down his progress to close out the day helps him leave his desk feeling accomplished. I’m going to try it, and I hope you will, too. 

There Was Something For Everyone

This section was also written using ChatGPT, when I asked it to summarize the conference. It’s a pretty good summary! ATD has something for everyone. 

Learning Tracks and Sessions

The conference featured a diverse array of learning tracks designed to cater to various aspects of talent development and HR management. These included:

  1. Career Development: Focused on helping professionals advance their careers and develop others’ skills.
  2. Future Readiness: Addressed the skills and knowledge needed to prepare organizations for future challenges.
  3. Instructional Design: Covered the latest trends and best practices in designing effective learning experiences.
  4. Leadership & Management Development: Aimed at enhancing leadership skills and strategic management capabilities.
  5. Learning Sciences: Explored evidence-based methods for improving learning and performance.
  6. Learning Technologies: Examined the use of technology to facilitate learning in the modern workplace.
  7. Managing the Learning Function: Discussed strategic approaches to managing learning and development programs.
  8. Measurement & Evaluation: Focused on assessing the effectiveness of talent development initiatives.

Networking and Expo

The ATD Expo was a major highlight, featuring exhibitors showcasing the latest tools, technologies, and services in talent development. It provided attendees with hands-on experiences and the opportunity to explore innovative solutions that can enhance their organizations’ learning and development programs.

Additional Highlights

  • Preconference Learning: Offered intensive workshops and certificate programs for deep dives into specific topics.
  • Career Center: Provided career coaching, resume reviews, and networking opportunities to help attendees advance their professional journeys.
  • Virtual Experience: Ensured that those unable to attend in person could still participate in key sessions and network with peers virtually..

How is Your Soul? 

The theme for ATD24 was Recharge Your Soul. I absolutely felt recharged when I left, so much that I couldn’t stop talking about it (still can’t). 

Robert “X” Fogarty asked us in the opening session how our souls were doing, and I can’t speak for anyone else, but I needed to hear that. So much of what we do in HR and Talent Development comes from the soul. If the soul’s not doing so hot, the impact isn’t there either. 

X started Dear World, and I totally recommend checking it out. At Horizon Point, we are People First and we put People First, and we believe that people’s stories are important. Dear World is all about using stories to inspire and connect people. Take a look at their work, and also ask yourself, “How is your soul?”.


Jillian Miles Massey