We all know that big professional conferences can be more a test of survival skills than a genuine learning experience. You spend several days swarming blindly with all the other ants in venues about as big—and as charming—as football stadiums. You wedge yourself into crowded workshops with the million or so other attendees, squinting at PowerPoint presentations and being talked at by a series of big-name presenters, until your butt goes numb. You might exchange a few pleasantries with somebody in the next chair, but after the workshop, you lose him or her in the maw of the anonymous crowd, never to meet again. At the end of the conference, you’ve spent several days getting your brain stuffed with information, but now, as you climb aboard the airport shuttle, you can practically feel all those gazillions of factoids falling out of your head like so much intellectual dandruff.
As we learn more about learning, we now understand that it is really a complex process of engaging the whole person—not just his/her disembodied intellect. Genuine learning is conveyed via experience; something happening that resonates emotionally as well as intellectually, something that literally alters the wiring of our brains, changes the sense we have of ourselves, even changes us. It isn’t for nothing, then, that the theme of this year’s Networker Symposium is “Engaging the Emotional Brain.” If it works for clients, why shouldn’t it work for conference attendees?
Of course, the Symposium’s program content is critical—and we have always invited the most talented and interesting thinkers and practitioners in the field to give workshops and keynotes. But we think that it’s the total Symposium environment, the full-monty of different experiences—learning, playing, seeing, feeling, hearing, moving—that really makes it work. Whether learning water color painting or doing free-form dancing on Creativity Day, joining colleagues for coffee and Danish in the morning, taking a springtime walk in Rock Creek Park, having a glass of wine with a friend in the book store, or going to a workshop—it’s all part of the kind of free-flowing, face-to-face learning environment that has become increasing rare amidst all the virtual reality of our Digital Age.
It’s an old saw of state-dependent learning that it’s easier to remember something when in the same environment, or “state,” where it was learned in the first place. So, to keep your Symposium brain alive and kicking all the way home and over the next few months, this year we’ve added a whole segment to Sunday’s program, beginning with an experiential workshop, “The Next Step: Taking the Symposium Home,” that combines cognitive strategies, mindfulness practices, and group interactions to help you highlight, internalize, and integrate what you’ve learned at the conference. Once you’re back home, you can join special webcast conversations with featured speakers and ask them questions that you forgot to ask, or didn’t occur to you, during the Symposium.
So, get on board and join the fun March 20-23 in Washington, D.C. This Symposium is not going to be “just” a conference, but something like the liveliest university semester you can imagine (with the classes and schmoozing, but without the exams) compressed into four days. It’s a giant house party, craft fair, summer camp, and festival—in short, a kind of intellectually-stimulating, community-building, blow-out you’ll never forget.
We look forward to enjoying your company there this spring in Washington, D.C. For a taste of what the Symposium experience is like, watch the video.
Richard Simon, PhD, founded Psychotherapy Networker and served as the editor for more than 40 years. He received every major magazine industry honor, including the National Magazine Award. Rich passed away November 2020, and we honor his memory and contributions to the field every day.