For many years I’ve attended (remotely) the Global Leadership Summit, a conference held outside Chicago and beamed to over 200 satellite sites throughout the world. Because the event takes place in Central time and I’m in California, our site watches the program on tape delay.
400 or so of us sit in a large auditorium, essentially watching TV together. But when speakers are introduced, we applaud. When each presentation wraps up, we applaud again. Sometimes, when a speaker makes a particularly resonant point, we applaud in the middle of his or her talk.
It struck me as a bit odd to be clapping for a performer who can’t see or hear us (and whose presentation had been delivered two hours prior). Then I realized that the applause wasn’t for their benefit. It was for ours.
There’s something reinforcing about a learning moment that’s shared—in the same way that movies are more highly rated by audiences when viewed in a crowded theater vs. an empty one. It affirms that, yes, this was a significant moment; others were moved by it too.
This reminds me of all the times I’ve watched a powerful TED Talk, then immediately felt compelled to post the video or email the link to friends and colleagues.
Learning is a worthy, edifying process even in solitude. Of course. But it becomes an experience—a reverberating loop of discovery and emotion—only when it’s shared.
Photo credit: Willow Creek Association