Could Your Attendees Benefit From a Digital Detox?

By telling attendees to put their smartphones, tablets, and laptops away, you may be able to create a conference that fosters deeper connections onsite and then drives innovation when they return to the office.

We’re all pretty obsessed with staying connected today, whether through texts, email, or social media. And while technology has many benefits, every now and again it can be extremely valuable to unplug.

Keeping that in mind, should your association consider hosting a tech-free meeting to get attendees more engaged in learning and making face-to-face connections?

While it won’t be easy to carry out or convince your attendees to take part, the benefits of doing so could outweigh any initial apprehension.

At ASAE’s 2018 Great Ideas Conference earlier this month, Main Stage Speaker Smiley Poswolsky, a workplace expert and author of The Quarter-Life Breakthrough, talked about his work as a counselor at Camp Grounded. The tech-free summer camp is for adults who are looking to unplug and be kids again.

“It is a digital detox, which means we take everyone’s technology when they walk through the door—their computers, their cellphones, their Apple Watches,” he said. “It’s a four-day event that’s all about connecting offline. So, there’s no networking, no work talk.”

At camp, they can participate in a number of activities—from face painting to archery to capture the flag. To those who questioned whether adults really need to take a break from technology and play, Poswolsky had this answer: “They do—that’s exactly what they need.”

After all, he said, growth and innovation doesn’t come from staring mindlessly at a 60-page PDF. “Innovation is more likely to happen when you get to be that inner child and then go back to the office feeling refreshed and able to tackle your work from a different perspective,” he said. “That’s when you’ll come up with the next great idea.”

And hotels are also encouraging their guests to get in on the digital detox trend. For example, Wyndham Grand announced its Reconnected program in February. Upon check-in, guests are given a timed lock box for their mobile devices.

While the program is aimed at getting parents to put their phones away during a family vacation, its goals—”to escape from the pull of technology and everyday distractions” and “to press pause on the moment and simply celebrate being together”—are similar to what associations would likely be looking to achieve by hosting a tech-free meeting.

To encourage participation, Wyndham is offering guests a 5 percent discount on their room rates and offers plenty of activities to fill the void. These include a toolkit to make an in-room blanket fort, an instant camera for documenting the fun, and a how-to guide for shadow puppets.

Is there something to be said for making your attendees turn off their technology and having them focus instead on being more present and in the moment? Let us know in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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