“I could stay lost in this moment forever,
Where every moment spent with you, is a moment I treasure”
It is 1995 and I’m sitting in a General Studies lecture. Seen by many as the easiest session of the week, it’s a rare chance to hear school visitors from the so-called real world share their stories.
Today, a mother has come to tell us the tale of how her daughter almost lost her life by joining a cult. She is nervous. She fidgets as she is introduced. As she begins to set the scene, she looks ups. Something has caught her eye.
“Excuse me. If I could ask you not to take notes please. I don’t want anyone writing any of this down”
She looks afraid. In that moment, her audience of sullen teenagers is gripped. It is one of the most memorable talks I have ever heard.
Looking back, I take two things from this experience. Firstly, that in a time when so much information is freely available, being told something is a secret is special. It creates a bond.
Secondly, there is something wonderful about paying full attention to someone, something, anything. Not taking notes, not fiddling on a laptop, not gazing out of the window. At TED in Oxford this summer, there was a strict rule. Unless you were sitting in the very back row (traditional home of trouble makers), all phones and laptops were to be switched off. We were encouraged to tell our fellow delegates to desist, should we spot them breaking this rule. At first, this felt silly, patronising even. Quickly, it made sense.
This week, a number of colleagues have been at Le Web, a major conference in Paris. Photos show a sea of laptops in the crowd and the conference website reveals an endless waterfall of messages emanating from the audience. I accept that some people think better when doodling and know from personal experience how Twitter, for example, can be a stimulating back-channel to an onstage debate. I tend to change my view though, when the person speaking has a powerful story to tell. I wonder how many people at events these days are actually listening. Really listening. Paying full attention. I know that, all too often, I’m not.
Ironically, the conference I have referred to, which has been excellently reviewed, was on the theme of the real-time web. We miss so much because, in the words of Aerosmith, we don’t want to miss a thing.