Neuroscience and your meetings

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The understanding of neuroscience behind meeting planning has had more attention in the past year than at any time in the history of meetings. With so much on our plates already, why is it important to understand how this research impacts us? Each of our attendees comes to the meeting with expectations including the needs for education and connection that have to be met, and a hosting organization that is seeking to be the thought leader is to provide these opportunities.
Neuroscience and your meetings
As the planner, you can easily create an enhanced experience with a few simple changes that will differentiate your meeting or event from your competition. Outlined below are ideas that will create visceral emotional responses that will have your attendees feeling a deeper connection to the organization. This can lead to sharing their positive memories, encouraging repeat attendance and even leading to creative solutions for any number of issues being faced individually or on organizational levels.

Scientists have shown how important it is to consider the whole brain in a learning environment, including sound, scent, texture, and visual cues. For texture, think beyond theatre, classroom, open rounds, and consider alternate venues and alternate seating styles, incorporating soft seating, or a simple mix of sizes and heights of tables, chairs and stools, to create an impact on entrance that heightens awareness and sets the stage for positive interactions to begin. Adding tactile elements to the seating area with games, building blocks, doodle-pads, stress balls and similar items can enhance learning as participants’ awareness is heightened in a way that does not distract from information being shared. Adding a subtle scent to a meeting can also change the perceptions and ability to remain alert through long days of sessions. Citrus, rosemary and other scents can be experimented with.

Technology can and should be used in many ways to enhance learning. Music provides connections to place and time, adds energy to a room, and should be used thoughtfully and judiciously through a program. From pumping them up for a walk in to a general session, to layering classical music softly over a room when you break into small groups to add to the creativity will help to build connections between concepts and drive learning.

Visual cues are a cornerstone of learning. How we process visual information now has to respond to how are brains are being rewired as our primary visual mediums have rapidly evolved, and key is we rarely have to read left to right as a primary response. First, we look at the image, then a headline, then the text box, and then if we are still interested, we read copy. Share this knowledge with your presenters as a consideration in how they develop their presentation materials. For the environment, consider sight lines to both presentations and to the other attendees, and set lighting so that it provides both ambience and focus. Use LED lighting in specific colours to cue learners, ie. blue light increases creativity, and green increases feelings of comfort.

Time and space to process learning is critical to success. This happens in several ways, first through discussion with others as the new information is reviewed, dissected and put into a format that has relevance for the individual. This can be done formally inside a session, or with enough planned “free” time outside the session rooms in the public spaces of your meeting.

Personal technology is ubiquitous. Embracing those that bring their devices to the meeting and use those devices to enhance their learning, through images taken, stored and shared and through how they are collecting notes and collating their own information for relevance is necessary.

Finally, rest, or quiet brain time for subconscious processing that allows for connecting the dots is important, and allowing adequate time for this in meetings can be overlooked, as attendees rush through full days and nights of education, trade shows and social events, with much to be accomplished in a set time frame. Considering small changes to environment and program might seem daunting, but the rewards in engaged attendees will be worth it!

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