Becoming Conference Brain Changers


Never in society have we known so much about how our brains operate and how we learn.

Today, we know what to do to foster successful learning at our conferences and events.

Becoming A Brain Changer

Research in cognitive neuroscience or mind, brain and education science is providing exciting new insights into how the brain develops and learns.

If meeting professionals and conference organizers want to provide attendee experiences that promote learning and networking, they have to know more about how the brain learns and operates. They have to become brain changers. Brain changers have the knowledge and experience to design creative and interactive sessions that helps their attendees learn, achieve and succeed.

Five More Important Education Neuroscience Findings For Brain Changers

Here are five findings in educational neuroscience research that opens the door for conference organizers to help attendees reach their full learning potential.

1. Attending A Conference Can Be Good (Or Bad) For Your Brain

Studies show that intelligence and creativity are separate abilities that are not genetically fixed! Both can be modified by environment and learning experiences. Experiences that conference organizers provide can actually raise (or lower) an attendee’s intelligence and creativity. Adults learn to be more creative through engagement and authentic applications of their learning to real world problems. Providing content that lacks meaning to attendees can actually decrease intelligence and creativity.

2. Multitasking Is A Mask For Alternate Tasking

Our brains can focus on only one task at a time. What is mistakenly called multitasking is the actually alternate tasking, shifting attention from one task to a second task and then back to the first one. Each brain shift requires increased mental effort. As the brain shifts, working memory from the first task is lost. Instead of doing one task well, two tasks are done poorly. Conference organizers can help attendees focus on one task at a time by providing speakers that are more interesting than any distractions possible.

3. Less Is More: Working Memory Capacity Is Decreasing

Recent studies suggest that the capacity of our working memory has decreased from about seven items to five. Working memory is the ability to hold items in our short term memory at any one time. This means conference organizers should ask speakers to present fewer details during education sessions. Request that they delete irrelevant content as well. Then use some of the time usually spent lecturing allowing attendees to delve deeper into meaningful topic through discussion.

4. Make Education Sessions In The Middle Of Day Highly Interactive

Researchers have developed a deeper understanding of how circadian cycles affect focus. Our ability to focus wanes for 35 to 45 minutes just past the middle of our day. Learning is more difficult during that time. For that reason, conference organizers should schedule speakers in the afternoon that use engagement and interactivity to help learners maintain focus.

5. Neuromyths Like Left-Brained And Right-Brained Abound

Conference organizers have to become better at telling scientific fact from hype, especially in the education field. For instance, neuroscience has proven that people are not “left-brainers” or “right-brainers.” We are whole-brainers. While certain activities take place in specific parts of the brain, we actually use both sides for most processes. Another neuromyth is learning styles. Neuroscience researchers have proven that the conventional wisdom of learning style theories of the 1980s and 1990s are in fact myth and not grounded in scientific fact.

Which of these five findings is most interesting to you and why? What are some sources of information for conference organizers and meeting professionals to stay abreast of educational neuroscience findings?

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  1. These are all good points – the idea that we consider the attendees first – brains and all – is something I hope to see more of at conferences. I think for speakers and planners there is a fear of not filling all the time, so continuing the message that time to process the information through discussion, and that this will actually create more value for the participants, is a great one to keep sending and back up with the research that validates this. Thank you for that. I think the first one is in some ways the most alarming – I want to go to a conference to come back re-energized with creativity and knowledge – so the consideration that this might not be happening – well let’s pay attention to that! Thanks Jeff.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, the first point that a conference can actually harm creativity or intelligence is an alarming one. Provide the wrong type of inexperience and it actually hampers brain growth. We need to be mindful and intentional about what we are doing for sure.

  2. Very interesting read! I just thumbed through it – and am tempted to write a blogpost on that :).
    I stumbled over the rather blunt rejection of multitasking – as being actually ‘alternating tasking’. I am not sure if this is actually true. In my opinion there can be multiple tasks executed at simultaneously – if they belong to different cognitive regimes of our brain. I (still!) have no problems walking and talking simultaneously – even walking to a predefined target (from home to work) while discussing complex issues on the phone. My conversation would only slow down or break down completely if the ‘intuitive’ task (the walking) encounters difficult surprises (a traffic accident, sudden noises,…). The tasks that can be actually simultaneous are manifold – as long as one is operated rather automatically in the intuitive regime and the other within the analytic tire.

    … and concerning left and right brain?
    Well, I kind of agree:


  3. It appears as if my comment was deleted?! I thought it would be a stimulating input to the discussion…

    1. Jeff Hurt says:


      Thanks for sharing and reading!

      First, your post was not deleted. Your first comment on this blog has to be approved. After that, they are automatically approved.

      Regarding your thoughts about multitasking. You do not have to focus on breathing because it is a natural process of your body, just like your heart beating or blood pumping. It does not require your attention or intentionality. When we talk about multitasking, we talk about things that require focus and attention.

  4. Thanks Jeff, for clarifying the process for approving comments. Indeed, nothing disappeard 🙂
    Back to multitasking. Many things that require a lot of focus at first (like driving a car – it is extremely stressfull for a beginner) can get trained upon the ‘intuitive brain’ where it then seems more automated. Still, driving a car is no automated process – it is just removed further from conscience and taken off the load of the analytical brain. I agree, that multitasking within the analytical brain is rather improbable.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Let me say it like this, we are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.

      I think neuroscientist Dr. John Medina says its best:”
      “Multitasking, when it comes to paying attention, is a myth. The brain naturally focuses on concepts sequentially, one at a time. At first that might sound confusing; at one level the brain does multitask. You can walk and talk at the same time. Your brain controls your heartbeat while you read a book. Pianists can play a piece with left hand and right hand simultaneously. Surely this is multitasking. But I am talking about the brain’s ability to pay attention. It is the resource you forcibly deploy while trying to listen to a boring lecture at school. It is the activity that collapses as your brain wanders during a tedious presentation at work. This attentional ability is not capable of multitasking.”

      Medina also discusses current research about multitasking while driving a car, such as talking and driving or texting and driving. The research shows that this impairs the brain and is like driving drunk. Yep, that’s right, even talking and driving. Why? More than 50% of the visual cues are missed by drivers talking to a passenger or on talking on a cell phone.

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