It’s interesting to reflect on the things we take away as memories from learning events, in terms of conferences, learning experiences, training sessions and courses.
From a conference I attended last weekend, there are two things that have strongly embedded themselves in my mind.
Firstly, a very positive experience following a drop-in workshop that I facilitated. One of the attendees of my session approached me later on to say that she had been involved in a number of discussions that had continued outside of my session.
I was very pleased to hear this as I’d prepared for some discussion to happen within the room, yet communication was for the most part limited. There were a number of people browsing the mini-poster content and the reflection questions on display and many attendees seemed content to read and (hopefully!) to think by themselves, which is fine, but the impact of the content and the thoughts people are having are then unknown.
Hearing that some of my content had prompted some discussion was great feedback and I’m extremely pleased that my session had some sort of impact on some people!
It was a moment to remember that what happens within a talk or workshop doesn’t reflect the impact of what happens afterwards. However, the first is visible and tangible, while the latter is usually not. If this hadn’t happened, my response to the question: “How did your session go?”, might not have been as enthusiastic. Also, it means that the most powerful memory I took away of my drop-in session didn’t even happen within the session itself.
The second memory is less positive. To an extent it’s understandable, in terms of being off-the-cuff and mid-session, in a moment when it’s not always easy to be mindful of one’s actions. But it was also disappointing.
I was an attendee at a session during which there were various stages of group discussion which then generated whole group feedback. I made a point that was actually based on the content of my session, so was well-informed, but perhaps jarred with the idea the presenter was attempting to share. Not in an argumentative sense, but a conceptual sense – my comment was neutral and delivered as a suggestion for action, but was an alternative to the speaker’s notion.
The presenter’s feedback to my suggestion was delivered a little dismissively, I felt. And then the presenter continued to seek further comments and asked if someone else had a view which either agreed with his point, or “this guy”, as I was referred to.
The presenter wasn’t to know my name, although we were all wearing the classic conference name cards on a lanyard and mine was visible and could have been read with a small movement and a little effort. But also, it’s not difficult when presenting to be more inclusive in such an instance, by pausing mid-sentence to briefly ask a person’s name, rather than to use “this guy”.
The thing is, this is one of those memories that is clearly powerful for me, yet may well be a moment that has already been completely forgotten by the speaker. It’s something that irritated me a bit, made me think, and meant enough to, in part, provoke this blog post. What’s sticky for one person is Teflon to another!
So positives and negatives. Both demonstrating the power of interaction upon memory and a reminder of how seemingly insignificant moments can have a powerful impact.