Tony Paixão Talks Elite Training Days 2022

The 10th annual event set new standards for presentations and attendance

Why would some of the most skilled interviewers from across the country attend an event focused on developing their interviewing skills? Because the most skilled interviewers from across the country understand the importance of continuing to develop and fine tune their interviewing skills. The best know there is always more to learn—more they can experience, absorb, and pass on to others. Proficiency is something we build upon, not a plateau that we reach.

Tony Paixão
Tony Paixão

That is the ultimate objective of Elite Training Days, an event hosted by the International Association of Interviewers (IAI) as the organization celebrated its 10th anniversary from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina this past week. Each year IAI brings new perspectives to the interviewing process, offering unique profiles and complex scenarios to challenge the way we approach the process and those we speak with. We might believe that last year’s presentation by George Piro—who was the lead interrogator of the Saddam Hussein interrogation team—would be a difficult act to follow. But there is always something new and valuable to learn, and IAI always manages to deliver. This year more than 230 attended the conference, with 50-plus also attending the interviewer’s Masterclass. Both were the largest numbers for the event to date.

To help us learn more about the value of Elite Training Days, LP Magazine sat down with Tony Paixão, CFI, CFE, executive director for the International Association of Interviewers (IAI) and consultant with Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates to gather additional insights on the event and why you should attend events like Elite Training Days.

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Attendees listen to presentation at Elite Training Days

LP Magazine: Why dos IAI hold Elite Training Days?

Paixão: Elite Training Days creates an opportunity for interviewing professionals to get together and learn from one another. There really isn’t anything quite like it. While the conference has grown and the reach has expanded, the goal remains the same: to provide interviewing professionals with a place to learn and network. We want ETD to be the interviewer’s pep rally where they leave feeling inspired, focused, and informed on the best practices in the industry, all while making career-long friendships along the way.

LP Magazine: What is the event all about?

Traci Lembke on interviewing seasoned interviewers

Paixão: We bring everyone together to provide a credible atmosphere where investigative interviewers from all verticals and tenures can get together to learn from one another and improve their skill sets. The conference is built on the idea that sharing knowledge with a small group of leaders will have an exponential impact on performance in the field. From influencing policy to promoting evidence-based training protocol, ETD is designed to challenge those tasked with one of the most delicate aspects of any job—conducting investigative interviews—to never become complacent. Our objective is to always challenge the way they (and their teams) are conducting investigative interviews while providing them with tools to make informed improvements.

LP Magazine: Who is invited to attend?

Paixão: Everyone! While the event is tailored for those who work in the investigative interviewing community, we recognize there are many other fields that can benefit from this type of event. There is a common misunderstanding that you have to be a Certified Forensic Interviewer (CFI) to attend the event and while we encourage all CFIs to attend, it is certainly not a requirement.

LP Magazine: How do you choose speakers for the event and why?

Admiral Craig Faller speaks on leadership

Paixão: Speaker selection is something we work on throughout the year. We invest a significant amount of time and effort to ensure we pick the right people—individuals who can speak to skillsets, qualities, and experiences that will have broad application to the diverse makeup of our attendees. The guiding question during the sourcing process is, “will this person provide value to an interviewer, regardless of the industry they come from?” If the answer to that question is “yes,” we will explore options to get them to the event.

That’s the thing with investigative interviews; they do not discriminate, and the guiding principles tend to hold true in nearly every venue. For example, this year we had presenters speak to:

  • Strategies for interviewing trained interviewers,
  • Guidelines for conducting behavioral threat assessments,
  • The power of leadership, developing an understanding to the cognitive abilities of young people and its application to the investigative interview,
  • The importance of learning how to conduct open-source investigations, and
  • Strategies for being successful in high-stakes interviews.

Every one of these topics has broad application whether you are in loss prevention, human resources, law enforcement, or the financial sector. On a break, we want the cop, LP manager, HR investigator, insurance investigator, and federal agent to all have their own unique takeaways with direct application to their field of practice.

LP Magazine: Tell us more about the Masterclass that you hold prior to the event. Why do you tie it to ETD?

Dave Thompson hosts the WZ Masterclass

Paixão: The Masterclass is a hands-on training workshop hosted by Wicklander-Zulawski that we hold the day before the conference. This was the third installment of the Masterclass and the largest we’ve held to date. While we wanted to provide attendees with the opportunity to sit through engaging and informative presentations, we also wanted to offer a venue to challenge their skillsets as interviewers. This class does just that. Every year we tailor a new workshop where we will be able to get the best from attendees while also positioning them to grow as interviewers, regardless of their experience level.

LP Magazine: Why should people attend this event?

Paixão: If you are an investigative interviewing professional, there is nothing else like ETD. This is a field that is evolving daily. The second you become complacent and fail to stay current with the ongoing changes, you fall behind. When you fall behind, you become a liability.

We are providing a unique opportunity to learn from the best minds in the industry while doing so in a fun, engaging, and collaborative environment where information can be shared and implemented into attendees’ respective organizations after the event. Beyond the educational opportunities, we are also providing top tier events to network with fellow attendees, solution providers, and speakers alike.

LP Magazine: What do you hope people will walk away with after attending ETD?

Jim Smyth on success with high-stakes interviews

Paixão: A new perspective. We want people to leave ETD feeling recharged and inspired to promote evidence-based interviewing practices within their respective fields. While there are clearly ethical and legal reasons to promote evidence-based techniques, there are also practical implications—they work. We hope attendees leave feeling equipped with new outlooks and techniques that help them become more successful in their roles as investigative interviewers.

Elite Training Days defines what attending a conference is all about. Learning something fresh and new, learning from each other, meeting new friends and colleagues, and reinforcing current convictions are all important aspects of the conference experience. We encourage everyone to benchmark Elite Training Days for next year’s calendar to continue honing this critical skill set.

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