Why Your Conference Is Stuck In A Rut

Thinking: More than None Will Be Required

The greatest wonder in the world lies in a three-pound mass of cells, with 1,000 trillion connections and the consistency of oatmeal, located in our skulls.

The human brain.

It controls your annual meeting. It controls your planning. It controls your attendees’ onsite actions.

It has more impact on your planning and onsite implementation than anything else in the universe.

Yet rarely do we consider it during planning or implementation. In order for our conferences to get out of a rut and into the groove, we have to start considering our brain.

The Brain Is Not Designed For Thinking

Neuroscientists have proven that the mind is designed to keep you from having to think. Thinking is slow and unreliable.

Our brain often kicks into an emotional hijack of fight or flight without our approval. It’s not that we are thinking about it. It just happens.

If you are walking in the woods and come face-to-face with a bear, your brain immediately takes control. You don’t stand there and reason, “Is this really a bear? Wonder what kind of bear it is? What happens if I hit it in the nose? What happens if I climb a tree?”

Your natural instinct is self-protection: fight or flight. Your brain avoids reasonable thought.

Thinking Is Hard, Seeing Is Not

Amazingly, the ability to see, move and breathe operates more efficiently, and reliably, than your ability to think.

It is no accident that 50% of your brain’s processing power is devoted to vision. Seeing doesn’t require thinking. You don’t have to reason about what you see, you just know it.

Thinking is some of the hardest work that exists. If conference topics are too broad and difficult to solve, like “Achieving World Peace” or “Improving the Economy,” attendees lose interest. They don’t like to work on unsolvable problems.

That’s one reason why many conference attendees mentally check out. If the topic becomes too hard to understand, they get frustrated, lose interest and stop thinking.

Your Default Is Auto Pilot

When we can get away with it, we don’t think. We rely on our memory. Most of the problems we face are ones we’ve solved before, so we just do what we’ve done in the past.

This is especially true when it comes to conference planning. We take last year’s schedule, send it to our team members, ask them if there are any changes for next year, replicate it and create the same schedule or routine. That way we don’t have to think about it.

“Most of the time what we do, is what we do most of the time,” D.R. Recht and L. Leslie.

Usually when we make decisions, we don’t stop to consider what we might do, reason about it, anticipate consequences and think about how to do it differently. We default to auto pilot. We use our memory to guide our behavior. Using our memory doesn’t require thinking.

Two Reasons Your Conference Is Stuck In A Rut

Why are our conferences stuck in a rut?

1. We avoid thinking whenever possible.

2. We are biased to use our memory to guide our actions rather than think.

How can we break out of auto pilot to create new conference experiences? What are some things we can do to reward thinking?

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  1. Another insightful blog. I was at a conference in las Vegas today. They said they duplicate last years schedule and look for people to fill the slots. It is a new committee planning it every year. Instead of having fresh ideas they stick to what works.

  2. […] brain will avoid thinking in order to conserve energy for its survival […]

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