Why Conferences Should Consider Banning Smartphones and Social Media

In 2013, when I spoke my at my friend AJ Leon’s conference, one thing stood out to me. Nobody was using their laptops or smartphones. There was a depth of connection and quality of conversation I’d never experienced before. Five years later, one of my friends and I still have inside jokes about our time together there.

If you ever go to a Summit series event at Powder Mountain, you’ll see signs everywhere that say “No photography allowed.” Despite the fact that many of the attendees are tech titans, they’re discouraged from using technology.

There’s a life-changing magic to meeting people person. But when devices are present, you lose that magic.

Meeting people that you know from the internet so you can upload pictures with them to the internet defeats the purpose of meeting them in person. Imagine if you got to spend 30 minutes with someone like Naval Ravikant or for that matter any of your heroes. Tweeting pictures with him would be a stupid use of your time with an incredibly smart person.

The purpose of a conference is community, connection, and meaningful conversations. Having devices in the room diminishes the quality of all three. You end up with more hashtags than handshakes and followers than friends.

You might have two days to interact with someone in person. But you have a whole year to interact with them on the internet. So why on earth would you choose the second when you’re with them in person? You’re sacrificing the more scarce and valuable resource.

When there are no devices in the room, the depth of connections and quality of conversations increases.

Event producers might argue that having people tweet about their event is good for marketing. I’d argue that deep meaningful connections, relationships that last and tangible outcomes are a thousand times better. In the long run that will do more for your marketing than any social media during the event.

Tweets, status updates, and Instagram feeds from conferences are fleeting. Conversations, friendships, and memories stand the test of time.

This is why I chose to ban social media, laptops, and smartphones at The Architects of Reality despite being someone with an active presence on the internet. I’m not interested in reliving the experience on Instagram. I want to form memories, connections, and friendships that last a lifetime.

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