Immersive Technologies Strengthen the Message for Professional Development Conferences


My son is on a baseball team. He’s at that age where competition really starts to kick in, and some kids are developing faster than others where they’re stronger and faster.

 My son really loves to play second base, but, he let an easy grounder roll through his legs early in the season, and he’s been in the outfield ever since. It’s tough to watch, but he’s also at an age where if he wants to see second base again he’s going to have to fight for it.

 To top it all off, the team isn’t having a good year. They were champs last year, so they moved up a division and are getting crushed. The one game they had a real shot at winning, the home plate umpire blew an obvious call and ruled what would have been the winning run as out.

 Hey kids, another life lesson: sometimes the calls don’t go your way.


 That’s one of the benefits of youth sports. In addition to learning teamwork, they also teach kids how to lose the right way. Specifically that, no matter how much a loss may hurt, you have to put it behind you and get ready for the next game. That a loss doesn’t mean the end: there’s always another opportunity.

 It’s a hard lesson and one that frequently needs to be relearned and reiterated as we continue through life. Often, the most successful people are those who aren’t afraid to fail.

There’s an interesting interview with Matt McFadyen, the Executive Vice President of Client Experience and Lead Facilitator at The AIP, posted on McFadyen’s company has created an immersive learning, simulated experience where members of the company capture first-person footage while performing adventurous tasks like mountain climbing or surfing. The team then uses the footage to create a simulation that puts a user in their shoes. However, this isn’t a passive experience. The user makes choices that will determine the outcome.

 “It’s not a Pollyannaish approach where everybody succeeds and summits the mountain. People don’t get there. And that’s the reality of life,” McFadyen said in the Cramer interview.

 “With the decisions that they make and other scenarios that they go through, ultimately, some of the room will be successful, and others are not so successful. There are definite learnings there. It’s not sugarcoated in a way where everybody, at the end of the day, we all stand at the top of the mountain and ‘Rah, Rah, Rah’ and high five each other. There are actual implications for the decisions that they make.

 “It relates very much to the world that they live in from a corporate side of things. We’re not always going to hit the goal, the target, whatever it may be. There’s going to be consequences in the decisions we make. So, really dissecting that around how we make decisions and what can we learn from let’s say, failure, in some capacity, then how do we apply those learnings to the next journey, the next mountain, the next whatever it may be.”

Corporate leadership building opportunities have evolved significantly from the days of trust falls and retreats when they were known as “team building.” Today’s business leadership and professional development activities have taken their inspiration less from pop psychology and more from pop culture, specifically Survivor and its ilk. Ropes courses, escape rooms, and rock climbing are just a few popular professional development choices. One thing they have in common is the chance that one or more person may not be able to complete an activity. There’s a very likely chance that someone may fail.


 “I think that word (failure) is kind of loaded,” said McFadyen. “It’s not really failure, it’s setbacks, more than anything. And how do you actually adapt to that, learn from it, and then apply those learnings into the next journey.

 “Because, let’s face it, in what we do, you know, it doesn’t matter what industry we’re in, we’re always committing to the next journey. We’re always looking to the next one and the next one, the next one, and being asked to, to re-up over and over and over again.”

 This shift in mindset to viewing potential setbacks as potential opportunities speaks to a broader shift in corporate culture in many industries. Technology is evolving at such a rapid pace that those who aren’t willing to make some changes and take some risks, may find that they are stagnating.

 McFadyen, his partners, and their team have utilized immersive technologies to create an experience that perfectly dovetails with this evolution.

 “People think that the adventure world is so different from the corporate sector, but when you really start to look at it, there are some really great lessons there. And I don’t think it’s just about the corporate world either,” said McFadyen.


 “It’s really giving people an opportunity maybe to do some self-reflection on how they can use some of these skills or tips and techniques to first and foremost just be better humans. And have the most impact they can personally, whether that be in whatever capacity that is with their families, their communities, their whatever. And then ultimately, that is going to allow people then to be the happiest and healthiest they can outside of the office, which allows people to be happier and healthier inside the office.”

However, as with any professional development conference, the ultimate goal is to ensure that all important lessons are absorbed and retained by every person in attendance.

 “It’s really, behind the curtain, about how do you keep people engaged for long periods of time? Mixing things up, engaging a hundred percent of the audience, making sure that it’s not just one-way dialogue, that it’s interactive. All of those things go a long way to delivering excellence in what we do day in, day out,” said McFadyen.

 The reason that these adventure-based activities work is because the lessons they impart are not forced. Experiences are naturally forged as colleagues spend time together and work side-by-side to accomplish goals. While those may sound like the objectives for a day at the office, adventure-based activities are (and feel like) a well-deserved break from the daily grind.

 “Not everybody is going to have an opportunity to climb Mount Everest, but we create that virtual opportunity for people. They can go and surf 50-foot waves and they’re there, and they’re actually living and breathing it, without having to actually strap on a surfboard and risk their lives. So, by creating an environment where people can get immersed in a scenario or a situation that is foreign to them, it really taps into that emotional part of our brain,” said McFadyen.

 “I think the story is really the crux of it. We’re hardwired as human beings to receive information through the power of narrative, whether it be through reading books, listening to podcasts, watching movies, that’s how we like to take in information. So, we create a narrative through the adventure piece, and we use video-based immersive learning to transport people out of their current environment in an honest and compelling way.


 “Thus, when you start to layer in business messages or key learnings or skill development, the retention of that is far greater than just the traditional way of learning and development.”

 To keep your audience off their phones and glued to your content, immersive technologies and strategies are essential components for today’s business leadership and professional development conferences. Looking for a partner who can find the right immersive tech for your next live event? Event Architecture has the solution. Give us a call at 214-529-0282.