They allegedly were listening to the speakers, these 10,000 people at Inbound 2014, a huge, fantastic marketing conference I got to attend last week.
But it’s the old listening-vs-hearing thing again, isn’t it? Because on Day 1, Sinek challenged people to not only put their phones away during this conference; he challenged them to leave them in their hotel rooms. He said a lot more than this, actually. He said don’t take them to meetings. He said close your laptop when someone comes to your desk, so that you can turn to them and engage in conversation. Our cell phones are an addiction, he said. They all left nodding, but by the afternoon they — we — were tapping our touchscreens and clacking our laptop keys as much as ever.
I guess it’s to be expected from a tech-forward group as this. It was a marketing conference, for Pete’s sake. I expected to, and did, see:
- People there, but not there, working on their laptops instead of listening to speakers.
- A mammoth exhibition hall at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center alight by the glow of smartphones.
- People with the amazing skill to walk through throngs of people without breaking the eye-lock on their phones. This was mostly harmless, except when they’re doing this while negotiating the top of a crowded escalator. I saw three near-human-tragedies as people would be deposited at the top of the moving steps with literally nowhere to go because of the mass of frozen people.
The day after Sinek rocked the house (you’ll hear more about him from The Dew later), Davidson came on and really hit a nerve with me on this topic.
She calls herself an activist, writer, digital marketer and burgeoning farmer. And she used her 12 minutes with us to explain that last bit.
She told us a story about her good friend who quit his tech-savvy life to become a farmer. And he suffered a heavy-equipment accident. And he died.
And he widowed his wife with their baby.
And his wife was pregnant with their second child.
It wasn’t easy for Davidson to talk about. She broke up at the start of the story, when her friend’s photo was projected on the big screen. But talking about it was likely easier than what she actually did about it, which is this:
She up and moved herself and her family to a little house near the widow, and she helped the woman farm the land. She talked about the sorts of things that homesteaders all experience, like how much better food tastes when you’re the one pulling it from the soil, and how important the experience of a family meal at dinner became to her.
The idea of the shared meal has prompted her newest initiative, which she first announced to the Inbound crowd. Like Sinek, she had an uphill battle talking to this group about it — and also like Sinek, she called our rampant cellphone use an addiction — but I was all ears.
She calls it #dinnermode, and she challenged the crowd to do a few simple steps:
- Set a timer on the phone for the appropriate amount of time you and your family can take for dinner, be it 15 minutes, or 30, or 60.
- Turn the phone upside down on the table and don’t look at it.
- Eat, enjoy, refresh and refuel.
- Celebrate the experience you just had.
- Share it on Twitter, using hashtag #dinnermode.
Jenn and I have never brought the cellphones to the table with us, so we’re one up on her target audience already. But I think we’ll be sharing our experience at #dinnermode all the same, in the spirit of community.