February 21, 2012 by Jeff Hurt
Regardless of one’s age, culture, gender or race, we share one thing in common: Our human brains love to learn!
Our brains are a lean, mean, thinkin’ machine. It’s always on the prowl for new things to explore.
It is genetically programmed to learn.
Our brains are always paying attention to something says education researcher Dr. Pat Wolfe. There is no such thing as not paying attention.
If the brain is deprived of stimulation, it turns inward and begins to create its own internal world. It daydreams.
People become bored and daydream when they are faced with tasks that are routine, repetitive or predictable. They start to daydream when they are reading or listening to uninteresting information. We quickly become bored when we have to sit in one position for too long and the physical environments never change or all look alike.
Whoa! That sounds like a typical conference experience. Routine, predictable schedules. Monotonous lectures with dull presentations. Dreary theater style seating options with bland, unexciting meeting spaces.
Anything that is habitual, repetitive or routine, causes the brain to pay less and less attention to what is going on around it. If an experience occurs over and over in the same fashion (same routine, same sights, same sounds, same movements, same looking environments, etc.) the brain becomes accustomed to the stimulus and ignores it.
That’s right. If your conference schedule has been the same from year to year, you are setting up a situation where loyal attendees ignore it. Your desire to replicate last year’s schedule in order to lessen your work load actually works against the brain learning. If your conference is just like your competitors or others, then you’ve created conference mind numbing boredom for attendees.
Boring and effective are mutually exclusive attributes in conference learning. Your conference experience cannot be effective if your experience is dull.
We’ve all participated in tedious conference experiences. Our minds wander and our attention wanes. We may be nodding our heads and staring forward at the speaker but internally we are ready to escape to something else, anything else, as soon as possible. We are relieved when it’s over. Little is retained and it’s a waste of everyone’s resources.
Our human brains love newness. We thrive on sensory stimulation. Our brains seek novelty and unique situations.
We actually grow our brains when we are involved in learning. We grow new connections (dendrites) between our neurons, our brains’ cells. When our attention is guided by emotion, interest, novelty and most importantly meaning, learning takes place.
When conference organizers shift from creating brain-antagonistic to brain-friendly experiences, the conference becomes more beneficial to everyone involved. This means focusing on securing speakers that have brain-friendly instructional strategies. This means changing up the conference schedule. This means creating unique and unusual sensory-laden experiences.
If there’s one reason to change your conference schedule, it’s to benefit the human brain!
The benefits? Attendees shift from passive spectators to engaged participants. Participants become enthusiastic, motivated and receptive to new learning. The conference organizers are seen as cutting-edge and on top of their game.
Ultimately, participants then want to return again next year for a new and different experience. They want more! Not more of the same. More freshness and newness.
Think back to one of your most memorable conference experiences. What was different about it? What types of conference experiences do you avoid?
Filed Under: Conference Education, Experience Design
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Makes so much sense! Why do we as a culture get it wrong so many times?! My favorite line: “When our attention is guided by emotion, interest, novelty and most importantly meaning, learning takes place.” Great job, Jeff!
Thanks for reading and commenting. Always appreciated.
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