Your Conference Needs To Focus On Providing 4D Experiences


Conferences need 4D experiences: deep learning, deep play, deep reflection and deep connections.

You probably recall a time in your life when you viewed a 3D movie. You wore 3D glasses and the images looked like they popped out of the screen.

Your conference needs more than the gimmick of 3D glasses. It needs authentic 4D experiences. It needs opportunities for participants to experience deep learning, deep play, deep reflection and deep connections.

21st Century 4D Experiences

Too many of our conference experiences lack depth and authenticity. They are nothing but multi-day superficial transactions.

Instead of amusement-park escapism thrills, our conferences need to design and foster real 4D experiences: deep learning, deep play, deep reflection and deep connections.

1. Deep Learning

Deep learning is different than the acquisition of information. It is more than knowledge transfer from an expert to an attendee.

Deep learning experiences help participants use higher order thinking skills—analyzing, evaluating, problem-solving—to construct meaningful understanding.

Deep learning involves the critical analysis of new ideas, linking them to already known concepts, and principles so that this understanding can be used for problem solving in new, unfamiliar contexts. ~ Julian Hermida.

Deep learning experiences prepare participants for critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and adopting new perspectives and mindsets. Participants are actively involved in activities and discussions instead of passively listening to a speaker.

2. Deep Play

Play is very familiar to us. We remember it from our childhood. Yet somewhere as we age, we walk away from play. We see it as foolishness and immature.

We may think of play as optional, a casual activity. But play is fundamental to evolution. Without play, humans and many other animals would perish says author and deep play expert Diane Ackerman.

Einstein called it combinatory play. He said it was an essential feature of productive thought and genius. Conferences need to design and provide more combinatory and deep play experiences.

Deep play experiences allow participants to become highly engaged in immersive simulations where they can take risks, innovate, experiment and try solutions to problems.

3. Deep Reflection

Too often our conference attendees spend all of their event time chasing information and people, looking for the immediate reward. Our conference consumption/reflection ratio is widely out of whack to paraphrase Umair Haque.

The most disruptive, unforeseen, and just plain awesome breakthroughs, that reimagine, reinvent, and reconceive…rarely come from the single-minded pursuit of the busier and busier busywork of ‘business.’ …breakthroughs demand (loosely) systematic, structured periods for reflection — to ruminate on, synthesize, and integrate fragments of questions, answers, and thoughts about what’s not good enough, what’s just plain awful, and how it could be made radically better. ~ Umair Haque.

Instead of always pushing information and quick connections, our conferences need to design experiences where we encourage attendees stop doing and make room for questioning, thinking and deep reflection.

4. Deep Connections

Most conference attendees gravitate to others that are like them, have qualities that they want to expand in their network or meet new people through people they already know.

While this intuitively makes sense for how we grow our business networks, it’s counter intuitive to what human beings need to be doing to ensure deep connectivity in relationships. ~ Organizational anthropologist, author and expert Judith Glaser.

When we are involved in sharing with others – sharing deep secrets, sharing what’s on our mind, sharing our fears, our dreams and our aspirations—we activate Temporo Parietal Junction or the TPJ of our brain says Glaser. This process releases the bonding hormone oxytocin which activates higher levels of trust and results in deep connections.

We have to create and design conference experiences that encourage participants to be open, transparent and share their passions, dreams and aspirations. It is only then that they can create deep connections that have long term positive effects.

Which of these 4Ds— deep learning, deep play, deep reflection and deep connections—does your conference need to focus on now? Which of these 4Ds have you personally experienced at a conference and how did it affect you?

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  1. Roger says:

    Interestingly, deep play allows all the other 4D’s to naturally exist. With Play you create deeper connections (built through trust and empathy), create room in your brain (and in your conference schedule) for deep reflection (and a visceral appreciation for the value of breaks) and, of course, play increases and improves deep learning.

    Another great blog!

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Great insight that deep play actually engages all 4Ds. What tips do you have for others who want to engage in deep play at their conferences?

  2. Chris lawson says:

    I’ve used good old flashioned improv in my design. This was intended as an icebreaker. However it absolutely fits into deep play and deep connections. Trying to get very traditional organisations to rethink content in order to focus on deep learning is a slowler process. We are getting there in the UK, but it’s a mind shift that for many is too great a leap. Deep reflection is a really interesting one, do you have examples of how this has been used in the design of an overall event?

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      We really appreciate you reading and commenting. Thank you.

      Ironically, may faith-based conferences and retreats employ deep reflection as part of their schedule. Those organizers build time within the schedule for structured deep reflection about specific topics. Here’s a post that also identifies some deep reflection activities.

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