Joining a professional organization can be a very beneficial way to advance your career. Most professions have at least one and corporate training is no exception. Here are a few I have been involved with throughout my career that I think are worth checking out.
- Association for Talent Development (ATD)
- Toastmasters International
- National Speakers Association (NSA)
- The Learning Guild
Association for Talent Development
One of the biggest and most well known professional organizations for corporate trainers or anyone else in the training and development space is the Association for Talent Development or ATD.
Back when I got started in training, it was known as ASTD or the American Society for Training and Development. The name changed in 2014 “to better meet the needs and represent the work of this dynamic profession”.
There are two main tiers of membership for National ATD. Professional and Professional Plus. There is also a Professional Plus special bundle that includes a certificate program. Below you can see some of the other benefits for each.
At first glance, that bundle seems crazy expensive but when you look at the cost of an individual certificate, it’s actually a pretty good deal. For example the Facilitating Virtual Training Certificate is $1500 by itself. So, you save almost a hundred dollars on the Professional Plus membership if you get the bundle. Something to consider if you were going to get a certificate anyway.
There are over 100 local chapters of ATD across the United States and around the world. You can join a local chapter separately from the National membership or you can join both with what they call a “Power” membership.
Local chapters allow you to get to meet other members on a regular basis. There is usually a monthly meeting and then, depending on the chapter, other events throughout the year. Also, if you are looking to network with others in the profession, a local ATD chapter can be a great way to do that.
ATD puts on a variety of conferences and events throughout the year locally, nationally and internationally. The biggest one is the ATD International Conference & EXPO. Other events include ATD TechKnowledge, ATD Sell and ATD OrgDev. You can learn more here.
As I mentioned, the local chapters may also have various events and/or conferences. For example, my local Houston chapter has a Technology Conference each year. Conferences, whether local or international, are another great way to meet and network with others in the field.
There are several educational opportunities through ATD including professional certificate programs, online courses and Master courses.
Whether you are just getting started or you want to continue to add to your existing skillset, there is a good variety to choose from.
In addition to the conferences and classes, there are a ton of other resources you have access to as an ATD member. These include various tools, templates, books and even recordings from different sessions. There is also a blog with many helpful articles to read and a job bank that posts open positions.
Should I Join?
This is my go to recommendation for anyone interested in getting into learning and development as well as those who are already in the field. I tend to find more value in the local chapter but if my employer is willing to pay for both then I absolutely do that. If you have to pay for it yourself, it is a bit pricey to do both, although, there are special membership deals for students and young professionals.
Like anything, you get out of it what you put in. If you never go to meetings or events, then it’s probably a waste though there is still a lot of good content to access. Something else I have enjoyed is the opportunity to speak at some of the local conferences. It’s a good way to show what you can do while also helping others in the profession.
Toastmasters is even bigger and more well known than ATD. There are over 16,000 clubs worldwide with over 300,000 members. While not specifically focused on the training and development field, it is a great place to practice and improve your public speaking skills.
It is very easy to find and join a Toastmasters Club. They are everywhere. You may even work somewhere that has one set up for employees. At one of my employers, we did this. We actually started a club from scratch for our employees and the company paid for their membership. It was a nice little perk and gave people across the company easy access for opportunities to polish their speaking and leadership skills.
Here is more info from the website:
As you can see, it’s not going to break the bank.
Toastmasters is all about the local chapters. That is where you go to get the full experience. As I mentioned, it’s very easy to find a local Toastmasters club. There will probably be several in or near your town and maybe even at your church or workplace. And, if there isn’t one, you can start one yourself!
Location is just one consideration to picking a club to join. Many of the clubs have a “personality” that you will want to consider as well. For example, when I first moved to Houston, I joined the Professionally Speaking Singles Toastmasters club. As you might guess from the name, this club is mainly made up of singles. At the time, it was a great fit for me as a single person who was new to the area. Today, I’d probably look elsewhere, although, that club has a particularly special spot in my heart. It was actually a fellow member there who introduced me to the wonderful woman who would eventually cause me to cease being single!
While I can’t promise you the same results for your love life, there are still plenty of benefits to be gained from joining. The meetings, which are the heart of the club, give you the opportunity to speak in front of an audience as well as to evaluate others when they speak. There are also several opportunities to take on leadership roles within the club in addition to a rotating set of roles for each meeting.
Toastmasters has one big conference each year which is the Toastmasters International Convention. In addition, there are other smaller events like webinars that are held throughout the year.
Contests are held both locally and nationally and culminate in the World Championship of Public Speaking. I never made it that far but I did participate in several of the local and district contests. They are a fun way to meet other Toastmasters while practicing and improving your skills. Winning a trophy is cool too!
Depending on the club you join, there may also be a good social element to joining Toastmasters. Not all are geared that way but usually there are at least a few opportunities for members to meet up outside of regular meetings.
The PSST club that I joined had all kinds of social activities in addition to the regular Toastmasters stuff. Karaoke parties, bar hops, movie watching, costume parties… Again, though, this was a club aimed at singles. YMMV.
Should I Join?
I definitely recommend Toastmasters for anyone who wants a safe place to hone their public speaking skills. If you are an aspiring trainer but you lack experience, it’s a great way to build that experience. You will be writing and presenting a variety of speeches on a regular basis while receiving feedback each time. There are always things that you may not be aware of that you are doing. For example, saying “uh” or “um” – most of us do it a lot more than we like to think. One of the roles at a Toastmasters meeting is an “Um Counter”. Their job? You guessed it! To count the number of ums, ahs or any other kind of filler words in each speech. It may seem a little scary to have someone counting but it is extremely helpful. The more aware you are the easier it becomes to start eliminating those words.
Even if you are a seasoned public speaker, I believe there are benefits to be gained from Toastmasters. There is the social aspect I mentioned. Also, networking. All kinds of people from different professions participate in Toastmasters clubs so you never know what kind of business (or other) relationships you might develop.
National Speakers Association
I never actually officially joined the National Speakers Association but I’m including it because it was on my radar for a while and I think for anyone interested in corporate training it is worth looking into. Basically, this is an organization for people who want to be professional speakers. At one point, that was me, but I ultimately went a different route.
There are a few different membership levels for NSA. There is the Professional Membership for people who already speak for a living either on their own or as part of a salaried position. The Academy Member is for aspiring speakers. And then, there is an Affiliate membership for those who are in a business that supports speakers or who are part of a speaker’s bureau. More information can be found here.
There are around 30 local chapters of NSA throughout the United States. Not as many options as others I’ve mentioned but if you live near one of them, it could be worth checking out.
I have attended a local chapter meeting before a long time ago. Similar to other organizations, there are usually some kind of meeting that covers club business and then a speaker and networking. Here is an example of a local chapter website.
There are various educational webinars and sessions you can attend through NSA. There is also a Digital Vault you can pay to have access to that has a bunch of on demand videos along with other resources.
Most of the resources can be found in the Benefits section of the website. In addition to some already mentioned, there is a magazine and discounts for several services.
Should I Join?
I think a lot of people who deliver training and love public speaking might be interested in NSA. Mainly, those who want to be a professional speaker for a living. If that’s you, then you should definitely at least check it out.
If you are more passionate about the employee training and development part, then NSA may not what you are looking for since it’s focus is mainly on the business of speaking. Of course, if you want to start your own training business, there may be some value as there is likely a lot of the business and marketing advice you could apply to that.
The Learning Guild
The Learning Guild was originally known as The eLearning Guild and focused on the design and development of eLearning. They changed the name in 2020 to reflect how learning technology is prevalent in all aspects of learning and not just a traditional eLearning course.
Membership in The Learning Guild is FREE and includes a lot of cool benefits:
The Learning Guild is an online community and there are no local chapters.
The Learning Guild puts on a whole bunch of conferences and seem to add new ones all the time. They have several that are in person as well as fully online conferences.
The two I have attended (and spoken at) are the DevLearn and Learning Solutions conferences. DevLearn is typically held in Vegas and Learning Solutions in Orlando. I found both to be very informative and enjoyable whenever I was able to go and/or speak.
Other Learning Guild events include regular webinars that are held throughout the year. They usually cover hot topics of interest within the learning community.
There are a lot of educational opportunities with the aforementioned conferences and webinars. There is also a research library and a multitude of articles and publications in the content section of the website.
Should I Join?
As I mentioned, The Learning Guild was originally The eLearning Guild and there is still a heavy emphasis on eLearning and learning technology. If you are mainly focused on delivering training for in person classes then I’d say the Learning Guild has limited appeal. Most of the resources are geared toward people who have at least some training design/development responsibility and who use various learning technologies to do so.
If you are in a combo position where you do both delivery and design then I think it’s definitely worth looking into. You can’t beat FREE as far the membership fee goes. Also, I think if you want to last a long time in the industry then you really should keep up on how learning tools and technology are evolving.
This isn’t a comprehensive list of professional organizations, obviously. These are just a few that I usually recommend to those who are interested in getting into the field or who are relatively new. And, really, anyone in an L&D position who wants to connect with like-minded professionals.