Why Your Conference Needs A Listening Space

♪♫ Waiting for the pumpkins to grow...

I decided it was a cold coffee type of a morning.

A Starbucks Carmel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino would do nicely.

Play That Funky Music White Boy!

On the drive to the coffee shop, a new funky song came on the radio.

It immediately transported me to my high school days. It had that Soul Train kind of funk that makes you want to get up and move to the grove and do the bump! I found myself “car dancing” where you only shake your hips and throw your hands in the air as you drive.

On the drive back home, I kept thinking about that song. Then I remembered I had not written my blog post for the morning.

The Need For Silence

Back at my desk, after responding to some emails, connecting to some friends from 20+ years ago via Facebook and searching for more audio of that new funky song, I felt the strong need for silence.

Not that hush of a traditional, sacred church service or the quiet from a fresh new snowfall. I needed silence that would connect with my heart and soul to find the words to share with you.

I was turning my attention to what was laying heavy on my heart to share via this blog post. I can typically write about almost anything in any given conditions. I’ve learned how to turn off the background noise. My need for silence wasn’t about focusing on words. It was about finding that reflective listening space where I could turn inward.

Conference Noise Can Overwhelm

Our world is noisy! Our conferences are even noisier. One is the noise of chatter, shuttles, people walking in hallways, smartphones beeping, espresso machines, banquet staff clattering dishes, speakers presenting and more. Those noises can irritate us, especially when they disrupt conference proceedings. Most of us have learned how to tune those noises out to be able to focus on what is important to us.

The tougher noise comes from within us. The fears of the unknown and failure, and how those fears drive us to anger or paralysis. The hubris and arrogance of “knowing better” and that the conference information being presented doesn’t apply to us. The impatience of wanting to know now, the shortcut to solve our problem and the anger and frustration from not getting the three-step takeaway.

That internal noise can zap our spirit and weaken our soul. That noise puts the “me” on the throne first and demands attention. It takes our focus away from learning and gaining insight to move forward.

Too often, our conferences are nothing but a huge push of information, data, facts, figures and research. It’s an ongoing stream of noise that can easily overwhelm us.

Creating Conference Listening Spaces

We need to create listening spaces at conferences where we can stop the information flow, reflect on what we’ve received, evaluate our internal noise against the new information and consider how it applies to our lives.

But how often do you hear of a conference asking its audience to take the next 30 minutes to reflect, consider, meditate and mull over the proceedings? How often do we really meditate and ruminate on what’s being suggested we do?

We have to give our audiences time to root out their own internal noise. To deny it access from keeping them from doing what they really should do to be successful.

Tradition will do everything possible to prevent us from creating listening spaces and reflection times for our conference stakeholders. It will keep us ensnared in the noise of self-serving and the way we’ve always done things.

In the noise of the world and that negative internal noise, we don’t say what needs to be said. We don’t do what needs to be done. We don’t focus on what needs to be focused. We get lost in distractions.

We have to be intentional as conference organizers and schedule time and space for our audiences to turn inward. We need to help our conference stakeholders find that listening space where they are free to be their selves and open to new ideas.

What are some tactical ways we can create conference listening spaces? Why is reflection so important to the learning process?

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  1. I really liked this idea, I was at a 3 day conference a few months ago and ended up skipping a session and having my own “listening space” at a coffee shop down the street so I could process what I’d been learning. It was so helpful, I was able to concentrate better for the rest of the event! I manage a girls leadership program and I think adding something like this would be really helpful to our girls. I’ll have to keep thinking about the best way to do that!

  2. christine melendes says:

    i wish i could do this weekly just at work! the need to be alone with one’s thoughts….joy!

    btw: have you heard blurred lines by robin thicke – very catchy

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