Why Removing Technology from Conferences Creates a Stronger Bond Between Attendees

In may of 2013, I attended a conference in Fargo North Dakota that was put on by my friend AJ Leon.

  • There was no hashtag mentioned at the start of the event.
  • Nobody was on their laptops or smartphones.

In fact, it was asked that we not use our devices during the talks.

The impact that this had on attendees was profound.
  • People didn’t have their faces buried in screens.
  • They were actually listening to what the speakers had to say.
  • At breaks, they were actually talking to each other.

The bond that formed with group was unlike anything I had ever seen at an event. It has lasted long beyond those two days. People have gone on to collaborate on projects, become lifelong friends and much more.


Perhaps it seems counterintuitive to an event producer to remove technology from an event. After all you’ll give up all that marketing and buzz that might happen via social media. But if their faces are buried in screens, while they mindlessly retweet sound bytes of what speakers are saying, are the attendees really present? Are they really engaged? Or is it just a passive consumption experience?

We’ve bought into this idea that people publishing endless updates about an event via social media qualifies as engaged participation.

But when we ignore the people we’re in the same room with to broadcast to the rest of the world what we’re up to, we kind of miss the point of being at an event in the first place.

It’s a big part of the reason we say “no smartphones or laptops” for our annual event, The Instigator Experience. I’ve included a trailer below

When we can’t just bury our faces in our devices, we’re forced to actually have a conversation with the person sitting next to us. We increase the likelihood that something good will actually come from being at the event.

We increase the likelihood of a real connection.

Removing technology creates a stronger bond between the attendees. The ability to follow each other on Twitter, and become friends on Facebook is at your disposal 24/7. The ability to have a real face to face conversation maybe limited to the few days that you are at an event.

Are you going to waste that opportunity to connect in order to broadcast?