Ah, that General Conference glow. Sometimes it hangs around for a bit, sometimes it’s fleeting. Conference was two weeks ago. At least I think it was two weeks ago. It was a very different experience than my normal General Conference experience – for the worse.
For those that don’t know, Chrissie and I had COVID yet again, and so I didn’t have the physical or mental oomph to take notes like I usually do – for myself and for sharing on this blog.
I really did enjoy the novelty of just kicking back and watching, with snacks, and silly letting the talks, music and the Spirit wash over me. It was a drastic change of pace of me. A seemingly nice change of pace.
However, since then, when I try and recall something from any of the first four sessions of Conference, my brain says, “You really liked that one talk by that one guy who told that awesome story about the thing!” While that may be true, it is not necessarily helpful. (Insert age joke here.)
But, if you ask me about something from the Sunday afternoon session, I’m all over it.
What was different? Really only one thing: I took notes that last session. Even though I felt lousy, I wanted to give it a try, and I’m glad I did.
I’ve given some thought to that, as well as a smidgin of research to try and figure out the disparity.
It boils down to a simple thing: When we take notes, our retention and comprehension are greater than if we don’t. More specifically, “We tend to lose almost 40% of new information within the first 24 hours of first reading or hearing it. If we take notes effectively, however, we can retain and retrieve almost 100% of the information we receive.” (link 1) (link 2)
I have always believed that to be true, but now I have a testimony-grade knowledge of its truthfulness.
Granted, I will add that my mind wasn’t operating at its normal breathtaking capacity when I was watching the first four sessions, but I used the same brain to take notes for the final session, and my memory got more involved.
A lot of it is that taking notes reinforces what we are learning. If you are watching or listening to Conference, you have one input for information: Listening. If you take notes, you have three: listening, writing and reading. It hits your brain three different ways. Sounds kind of obvious that retention would increase, right?
It is also interesting that if you watch with closed-captioning on, your retention and comprehension dramatically increase. “More than 100 empirical studies document that captioning a video improves comprehension of, attention to, and memory for the video.” (link)
I found that interesting, because I always put the captions on, but my reason is so I can catch things I might have missed for my notes.
MY conclusion – FOR ME, is that I have better retention of Conference when I take notes. Significantly better. (You probably would, too – but I would never say that.)
What to do? I need to go back and watch the first four sessions on TV with my handy, dandy laptop and take notes like I always do, belatedly. That does sound a little crazy, even for me.
This brings up another interesting idea: Is retention better when we watch Conference live, or recorded? Here is one answer:
“We find that with the more difficult topic, students watching recorded lectures performed better than those attending live lectures. For an easier topic, however, the opposite was true. Male students benefitted most from lecture capture, particularly on the more difficult topic. Women students were largely indifferent to changes in lecture modality.” (link)
No serious person would say that the study of the Gospel is an “easy topic,” so watching live does have some impact in retention and comprehension. At least it does for the guys. The ladies seem to be able to process no matter where it comes from. Show-offs.
Another beneficial part of taking notes while watching was brought up by Elder Robert D. Hales when he said, “When I take notes at conference, I do not always write down exactly what the speaker is saying; I note the personalized direction the Spirit is giving me.” (link) (These are my notes y’all don’t see.)
Time for a personal opinion: I believe that watching Conference live shows God – and myself – that the words of the prophets are a priority to me, “rather than something I’ll get to later.” I tend to focus better on those things in my life that are priority.
I’m sure some of you are itching to push back at the idea that live is better than recorded, or read later. In my defense, here is some more Elder Hales, “As the time for conference arrives, we sacrifice other activities, ‘laying aside the things of this world, to seek for things of a better.’ Then we gather our families to hear the word of the Lord, as King Benjamin’s people did.” (link)
(I know it isn’t always possible to watch live. Important things like work and kids get in the way. So do less important things like sports, shopping, cooking, eating, vacations and trips to the lake.)
Lots of stuff to consider here, but I think that in my perfect world, embracing General Conference would entail:
- Watch it live
- Turn captioning on
- Listen for the Spirit
- Take notes
- Taco Bell between, not during sessions
In my case, that just didn’t happen 80% of October Conference. So what do I do now?
I can go back, and watch it and try, try again! So much better than waiting a month for the Ensign to show up.
Does that seem like overkill when I could just log on and read a talk everyday? Perhaps, but I do know me, and I know that I have NEVER gone back and watched or read a talk after the live broadcast AND taken detailed notes.
I need to get past the idea that if I missed it, I missed it., and use the glorious technology to recreate what I experienced during the session that I did embrace fully.
Over the next few weeks, that is my intention, because it has been a long time since I’ve had so little “stick” from Conference. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I will say that it was a wonderful Conference this month and that I learned a lot, but I can’t really tell you what.