Four Objections To Changing Conference Education And Experiences


Change freaks many of us out!

We fear it. We ignore it. We refuse to accept it.

It’s really not change that freaks us out. It’s the unknown of the outcome. It’s so much easier to keep things the same because we know the results.

Defining Change

According to psychologist and therapist Roger S. Gil, change is

“…A modification to a person’s environment, situation, or physical/mental condition that results in circumstances that challenge their existing paradigms.

…It implies that humans have a tendency to define how their world is supposed to work. Whenever something happens in our personal world or to our own being that is inconsistent with the way we feel the world should be, we encounter change.”

Our Challenges With Change

We react to most change with an emotional response. We feel before we think.

There are other factors that impact our response to change as well. These include our temperament, mood, IQ and emotional quotient says Gil.

Even information that is opposite of our beliefs, our certain predictable thoughts, can cause stress.

“Any time we are confronted by an event that is inconsistent with our core beliefs, we will likely feel some level of stress,” says Gill.

Four Objections To Conference Change

Here are four objections to changing the conference model, education or experience.

1. What If We fail?

We can’t keep trying the same approach every year and expect different results. Our old approach is not working. Failure is not the end of the world. We need to see failure as part of our learning experience and not the end itself.

2. Our Attendees Don’t Like Change. It Causes Negative Feelings.

Yes, it’s true our brains crave predictability. And we want and seek safe environments.

As author David DiSalvo points out in What Makes Your Brain Happy And Why You Should Do The Opposite,

“Our brains are prediction-and pattern-detection machines that desire stability, clarity and consistency–which is terrific, except when it’s not.”

We don’t stop exercising because it feels uncomfortable. We don’t stop strength training because it hurts. We know that these tasks, even though they cause unease, ultimately benefit us. We focus on the benefits and future outcomes first.

As DiSalvo says, people that are able to work past their brain’s appetite for certainty–its need to shut the door on new ideas, change, unpredictable and the unknown–are more likely to engage challenges from a broader variety of vantage points. They are more likely to take risks to overcome them. And these people are more successful and creative.

Sure, we still need to create safe conference environments for people. And we have to help them to train their brains to do the opposite of what they feel sometimes.

3. The Attendee Experience And Education Is Not My Job

Everybody involved with planning a conference should support the organization’s mission and goals for that meeting. That includes the goal of increasing the ROI for a paid registrant.

We need to change our performance yardsticks and realize that we do have a say and impact on the attendee experience and education. We need to change our metrics to helping attendees improve their work performance and productivity and not just delivering speakers or information.

4. My Coworkers And Peers Say We Shouldn’t Change

New information bothers our brains. It feels uncomfortable and uneasy because often it doesn’t align with our core beliefs. Therefore we tend to seek colleagues that agree with us to avoid change. When many others agree, we see it as undeniable logic that we shouldn’t change.

You Are Not So Smart author David McRaney calls this the illusion of asymmetric insight.

Essentially we attack change because we think we know better and have colleagues to back us.

Train The Brain To React To Change Differently

Just as we train our muscles and bodies through uncomfortable exercise for obvious benefits, we have to recognize and train our brain to react differently to change.

If your brain experiences enough change in a variety of ways, it’ll allow you to operate with the understanding that change is something you can survive and even benefit from. You won’t fear it so much because the information stored in your head provides evidence that fear is unnecessary says Gil and writer Adam Dachis.

Why do you avoid change? Should we create conferences that feel safe and predictable or mix it up?

Read more about conferences, predictability and change

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