This week we hear the views of Andy Lopata one of Europe’s leading business networking strategist who has a regular blog in The Huffington Post and has been quoted in national press, including The Sunday Times, The Financial Times and The Guardian. Andy was recently key note speaker at the institute’s Fellows Symposium.

In your opinion what is the biggest anxiety within the world of learning and development at the moment?

From the provider’s perspective, the biggest issue seems to be the sheer scale of reorganisation and restructuring within many large organisations. So many programmes have been agreed and then shelved because of changes of priority, budget allocation or, simply, jobs disappearing. That must make long-term planning next to impossible for many L&D professionals.

Of course, the challenge presented by this uncertainty affects providers in the same way. Proposals are constantly renewed and revisited as the needs change, making it difficult to embed a programme and effect real change in an organisation.

Who or what is informing your thinking around L&D?

I’ve been a Member and Fellow of the Professional Speaking Association for 11 years now and have more recently joined LPI and ISMM as Fellow. The advice and content coming from those associations and, even more importantly, the relationships formed with colleagues through my memberships, are invaluable.

I also regularly read ‘Speaker’ magazine, the official publication of the National Speakers Association in the US. This gives me a great insight into trends in the US, which often resonate with challenges faced here and in other overseas markets.

What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning?

I’m both excited and challenged by the growth of online and virtual delivery. We have been developing our own online learning programmes for a couple of years, with the launch scheduled this quarter, and recognise that its availability will enable us to reach more people, more widely and more cost effectively for the client than ever before.

Virtual presentations are growing in popularity. I have seen them done very badly and very at conferences at which I’ve been presenting in person. Personally, while I recognise that virtual presentations offer new opportunities for meeting planners, I still feel that you’ll struggle to beat the sheer power of the physical presence of a speaker.

Eye contact is not just about the audience being able to see the speaker’s eyes (through the camera lens) but it’s two way. As a presenter, I draw a lot of energy and power from the response I get from individual members of the audience. I can’t draw the same charge from a screen

What “game changers” would you like to see and why?

I’d like to see much more focus on developing a training mix that embeds learning from initial presentations. Despite everyone being aware of the lack of retention of information shared just once, so much information is delivered through one-off presentations or training days.

An increase in the use of mentoring groups and online learning to back up delivery would make a huge difference in the level of impact that training could make.

In a similar vein, I’d be delighted to see an increase in Mastermind Groups, similar to the ones we ran at the LPI Fellows event late last year, within organisations. Building these into the culture of an organisation would break down silos, build trust and mutual support and empower staff at all levels.

What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2020?

Attention spans are dropping and diaries are under increasing pressure. Unfortunately I fear that will lead to more people learning on their own, in their own time. Learning will be delivered to mobile devices and credits accrued for completion.

Sadly, that will lead to less interaction and group learning, less experiential learning and less interaction between people, sharing their own experiences and ideas.

Rather than full day courses there may be a growth in ‘lunch and learn’ style quick fire delivery. We’ll also see more Open Space and Unconference style events where everyone offers inputs rather than external speakers.

Of course, I hope I’m completely wrong! Although elements of the above, as part of an overall training mix, could be very positive.

What advice would you give your 21 year old self?

Start your own business sooner rather than later. Invest in your own self-development and start speaking about networking now, while no-one else is!

Check out Andy’s blog by clicking here

Follow Andy on twitter @AndyLopata