Get On The Brain Train Before It Leaves The Station

Dirty Bullet

Attendees spend about 24 hours physically present in a three-day conference experience. (About eight hours a day, outside of sleep and night activities.)

Students who attend school from kindergarten through high school typically spend more than 13,000 hours learning from teachers.

24 hours seem minimal as compared to 13,000 hours. Yet, most conference participants try to learn as much as possible in that 24 hours.

Regardless, students and conference attendees’ brains are very vulnerable to outside influences — cognitive, emotional, environmental, physical and social. And their brains will be altered by the experiences they have at conferences and at schools.

As conference organizers, we must–ethically, morally and opportunistically–pay attention to how we ask conference participants to spend time with us at our events. We must focus on what we are providing them to do. Their brains depend upon it.

The Dawn Of A New Revolution: Brain Science

Our brains are amazing organs. Scientists have just tapped the tip of the iceberg of understanding what goes on inside our brain. Yet in the past 10+ years we have learned more about how our brains work and how we learn than in the past century.

Brain-based learning is not a prediction or a fad. Brain science is an important tool that conference organizers should acknowledge and learn.

Creating conference environments that serve as catalysts to learning are crucial to the conference’s success. Crafting learning experiences that are compatible with the ways the human brain functions is an approach that is essential today.

Although it is not a cure-all for other conference planning basics, considering brain-science and brain-based learning provides some important guidance during the planning stages.

If you want to improve your conference experience and learning, you’d better understand the brain.

Making Sense Of Brain Research

Where should conference organizers start to become more consumer literate about brain research? Start by reading the work of John Medina, Daniel Willingham and Ruth Colvin Clark. Read some of the publications and journals from American Educator (Ask The Cognitive Scientist Column), ASCD, ASTD, GoCognitive, IMBES and others.

Ask some critical questions of any brain science that is released:

  • What’s the origin of the idea?
  • Is it still just theory?
  • What’s the scientific discovery that illuminated this theory?
  • Where’s the research on it?
  • Does the research show longitudinal studies that examine diverse populations and have sufficient sample sizes?
  • Is there any evidence of successful application to learning in classrooms or conferences?
  • How do the learning style theories align with today’s recent brain science?

View your conference learning experience as a place to try new concepts or strategies. Use thoughtful action to test some of your own ideas. We need more conference organizers to try ideas, apply research and share results.

All Aboard!

Brain-based learning is here to stay.

Anyone who thinks this field is irrelevant is saying that the brain itself is irrelevant. Nothing could be more wrong.

Understanding and applying relevant research about the brain is the single most powerful choice any meeting professional can do to improve their conference learning experiences.

The brain train is leaving the station. Will you get on board?

What keeps some meeting professionals from applying research from brain-science to their conferences and events? Why don’t more conference organizers use their experiences to experiment and test new methods?

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  1. Other resources for tracking neuroscience and behavior include Jonah Lehrer and via Twitter, PsychCentral, SAeditorinchief, TheBrain Science … and others!/KareAnderson/human-behavior-research

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      ‘@Kare & @Maarten
      Thanks for adding to the list of resources of brain science information! Greatly appreciate it.

  2. Dozens of articles and other resources can be found on, here, since 2007, a selection of science findings, applicable to meetings, is published on a regular base. It’s free, you can register for regular updates. Midcourse corrections is a regular contributor too! Thanks Jeff.

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