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Conference? What Conference?

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.

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Comments

  1. I agree.
    My “style” of learning must be just like yours. I’ve taken notes on things since I was a little girl. Long ago, I saw a friend who was older than me and asked what it she was holding,it was her Sacrament Meeting notebook. Wow! I was hooked.

    IF YOU DO, what you talked about above, PLEASE POST YOUR NOTES. I love adding your thoughts to mine. It’s not too late.

    I never know what I’m going to thinking about and what will stick with me after Conference, so I love having my notes to refresh my memory.

    I LOVE paper, so I’m old school and hand write my thoughts. I use colored pens, highlighters, the whole enchilada. It’s so fun.

    Thank you for being inspired to keep going with this great tradition of yours. 💗

  2. You had me until Taco Bell! :). Great ideas truly!! I take notes when awake. I also leave a spot on the top of my notes for personal revelation. The thoughts that come out of the blue as I listen to conference I write down there at the too

  3. Brother Brad, I’m just the opposite. I love watching and attending all sessions on TV, including the Saturday night session. But I can’t wait until the talks are available in the LDS Library. I then go through each talk with pencil and paper and the Spirit to really learn what is said “for me.” It sometimes takes me a couple of days to really dissect a talk. I make notes about the things that the Spirit seems to point out for me. I treat it just like studying the Book of Mormon or other scriptures. I guess it’s because I’m a visual-type person; I need to see it to understand it thoroughly. Hope you’re over Covid for good!

  4. Great post, Brad. It’s great to hear from you again. Note taking is essential for me. I am still learning, however, to hear the message for me personally along with writing down verbatim. Thanks for your insights.

  5. Oh I loved this post and the data you shared! This conference seemed more powerful. I don’t know what exactly it was but man, POWERFUL. Looking forward to hearing more of your insight on it as time goes on.

  6. Thanks, Brad. I missed your notes this conference. I do take notes myself, with pen and paper, but you capture more. (I’m always so impressed!) I do find for myself that taking notes as I am listening (whether conference or elsewhere) significantly improves my retention. I rarely go back to my original notes, even when I study the talks later, but I absorb more while note-taking.

    Happy to see your blogs whenever they pop into my inbox!

  7. IT IS SOOOOOO GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK! COVID IS A WICKED THING, AND ONCE YOU’VE HAD IT, YOU’D THINK YOU’D BE IMMUNE. BUT NO SUCH LUCK. I’VE NEVER BEEN A GOOD NOTE TAKER. I’M TOO SLOW, AND I SEEM TO MISS OTHER IMPORTANT PARTS OF THE “TALK”. I DID, HOWEVER, READ THE LINKS YOU REFERRED TO, AND I AGREE WITH WHAT YOU SAY. I’M JUST GOING TO HAVE TO TRY AGAIN AND RELY MORE UPON THE SPIRIT. THANKS AGAIN FOR YOUR POSTS. I LOVE YOUR IDEAS. K. HEDGE

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