Learning 2023: The Learning Leaders Conference

Learning 2023 was a premier gathering for L&D leaders that took place from December 5 to 7, 2023, at the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace in Orlando, Florida 1. The conference focused on leadership strategies, skills, and best practices in organizational learning and development. The event featured over 100 sessions on hot topics, emerging technology, and strategic challenges, including the impact of AI on learning, the importance of empathy in learning leadership, women in learning and the latest research into learning and performance 1. The conference also offered keynote speeches from acclaimed industry leaders, including Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., multimedia artist Phil Hansen, and ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts 1.

This blog is my take on the event – as I experienced it in real time. I hope you enjoy it and if you have any questions at all -please do feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

The conference was designed to help L&D leaders gain the resources they need to grow and excel as seasoned professionals or aspiring leaders, advance their careers, and remain on the leading edge of organizational learning and development 1. The conference also provided opportunities to meet fellow learning leaders, gain insight into learning and technology trends, analyze today’s leadership challenges, and much more 1.

On the eve of Learning 2023, a few of us chatted at a “Speakeasy” hosted by Realtime Recruitment. It was a great time at Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant discussing the value of upskilling, #WomeninLearning, employee RETENTION, #30under30 (30OVER30) and defining Talent as a Service (TaaS).  Everyone shared their experiences, insights & perspectives among the clicking of Irish step dancing with great food and drink!!  The perfect evening!

1: thelearningconference.com                 2: learningguild.com                      3: adlnet.gov

Day 1: Setting the Stage for Transformation

The conference kicked off with an inspiring keynote (Embrace the Shake by Phil Hansen -inspirational & “artsy”) that set the stage for transformational journeys ahead. After developing a career-ending tremor in his drawing hand, Phil embraced his “shake” both physically and metaphorically by redefining his limitation as an impetus for creativity. Attendees were immersed in drawing & discussing what this means to them all way before noon. It was a moment to “Seize the limitation”.

Other conversations that day included the pivotal role of learning technologies, modern living, exploring how artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality are redefining the learning experience.

“Learning should be INTEGRATED with the business!” – Andrew Jacobs

Andrew also shared- most people state learning should be aligned with the business – but if so, then it’s just parallel with the business. We need to reframe this and ensure learning is (part of) the business.
The Learning Guild’s Learning 2023 Understand & Apply Modern Learning Practice to Your Design.

Day 2:

Day 2 kicked off with an engaging and exciting “Breakfast Bites” focused on Women in Learning! We had a number of 30 under 30 alum and award winners at this table! It was delicious, inspiring, entertaining & an informative kick start to day 2!

93 registered for this very important topic of Women in Learning. Believe it or not- we talked about Taylor Swift, sparkle boots, Wonder Woman, Barbie, and even Beanie Babies!
Curious to know how this all relates to women in learning? Just reach out – I will be happy to share the PowerPoint deck from the session and deliver it to your L&D group or entire organization. You can also search #womeninlearning & #WiLPledge on LinkedIn to follow the conversations.

A key part of this year’s Women in Learning discussion included the updated layoff stats, and learning tech played a role in it all. Or women in L&D roles at tech companies.

The tech industry skews male, but tech layoffs paint a different picture: A disproportionate percentage of the workers laid off since last fall appear to be women.

Why it matters: There are fears that the Big Tech layoffs that rocked the industry may set back its yearslong push to diversifyBig Tech skews male but female employees brunt the burden of layoffs (axios.com)

Lastly the inspirational stories of courage, efforts and success were shared with all. It will be interesting to see if the #WilPledges and posts tagged with #womeninlearning (feel free to join the LinkedIn group too) start moving the needle in the direction of Gender Equity for Women in Leadership!

Day 2’s Keynote: Finding the Roots of Leadership – Henry Louis Gates Jr.

One of the highlights for me on day 2 was the keynote with the esteemed Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.. His expansive work, from “Wonders of the African World” to “Reconstruction: America after the Civil War”, consistently underlines the intertwining of history with present realities. His approach, steeped in rigorous research, scholarship, and storytelling, demonstrates the power of informed leadership.

His commitment to illuminating the African and African American experience, both through academic research at Harvard and ground-breaking documentaries, showcases the profound impact of purpose-driven leadership. Gates exemplifies how leadership isn’t just about forging ahead; it’s also about ensuring that the torch is passed to the next generation. He also shared statistics for genetics and other data that would blow you away. In it we discover that we are all “more alike than not” when you look at our DNA!! If we can educate and support the leaders of the future with this information – in it will lie the blueprint for effective, informed and transformative leadership. And hopefully it will lead to an environment committed to a more inclusive future!

Day 3: Culture, Upskilling, Strategy & Reframing Your Energy

An 8AM session – after a night out at Epcot – on the last day of a FULLY engaging & busy conference – was outstanding! Shantel Dixon nailed it, her #Learning2023 session on “Make it Meaningful: The Power of Culturally Relevant Learning”. It was enhanced by her personal anecdotes, relevant content (introducing me to another perspective on inclusion) and ability to create meaningful conversations in the room was “out of this world!”  Her emphasis on the value of listening and how to do it well is something everyone walked away with from her session.

On the final day, the conference shifted focus to the human element in L&D and technology. Presenters emphasized the importance of balancing technology with human connection and emotional intelligence. Also, discussing the importance of reframing your energy to lead to overall increased happiness.


Learning 2023 had a laser focus on leadership strategies, skills and best practices. It was a gathering for L&D leaders and offered the resources needed to grow and excel seasoned professionals as well as aspiring leaders, advancing careers, and remaining on the leading edge of organizational learning and development.

It was a valuable event allowing participants to gain insight into learning and technology trends, as well as analyzing today’s leadership challenges, and so much more!

Want to hear more? Just reach out!

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