June 29, 2012 by Jeff Hurt
Let’s face it. Most conference education is yawn-stirring, sleepy-eyed, ho-hum, day-old soggy Melba-toast tasting boring.
It makes root-canals seem fun!
Regardless, the human brain loves to learn.
In spite of our age, culture, gender and race, our brains are designed to always be on the prowl for new things to discover and experience. The brain is genetically programmed to learn. It’s in our DNA.
Our brains love to learn!
Amazingly, our brains cannot stop learning. When our brains stop receiving stimulation, they turn inward and being to create their own internal world. They start daydreaming.
Daydreaming happens a lot during conference education sessions.
When sessions become boring or feel like a déjà vu we’d like to forget, we start to daydream. When we are listening to uninteresting information and have to sit in one physical position too long, we start to daydream. When our surrounding environment never changes, we start to daydream. When the experience feels routine or repetitive, we start to daydream.
Daydreaming happens a lot at conferences. Unfortunately, probably more than learning occurs.
So much of our conference education feels repetitive and routine that our brains pay less attention to it.
Most conference experiences occur the same way every year from event to event. It’s the same pattern, sounds, movement and experience within a different venue that pretty much feels like the other venues. The only difference is that the carpet and walls are a different color or pattern.
Our brains have become so accustomed to the typical conference stimulus that it ignores it!
In most education sessions, the presenter or panel does most of the talking. Audiences do most of the listening. The delivery style never changes. The general session and breakout rooms look the same. The information, although designated important by the organization, its leaders and the presenter, is not important to the attendees.
What’s the result? Attendees’ learning decreases drastically. Attendees are literally bored to tears.
“Boring and effective are mutually exclusive attributes in learning. You can’t be effective if your training is boring,” says education author Michael Allen.
What’s the result of the status-quo, cookie-cutter, cloned conference experience? Attendees reach their limit with boredom. They are ready to escape. They run to the hallways to find others to converse with. They schedule private meetings to make the most of the experience. They stop attending sessions and walk the town.
Little learning occurs. Little is retained. It becomes a waste of their time.
Conference experiences don’t have to be dreary, dull and tedious. Conference education does not have to be mind-numbing boring.
Even scientific, medical, engineering, technical content-heavy sessions don’t have to be wearisome. When presenters embrace brain-friendly strategies for effective learning, the entire experience becomes beneficial.
When conference organizers shake up the routine schedule and offer different experiences, everyone benefits.
The benefits to our attendees are numerous. They become energized and inspired. They become receptive to learning. They are eager to apply their new learning to their jobs.
The benefits to our presenters are also numerous. They are challenged to create more effective presentations that lead to learning. They improve their presentation-skills and their own professions and companies benefit.
Everyone benefits when these changes occur.
Ultimately, our human brains prefer newness. They thrive on sensory stimulation. It actually grows when it’s engaged in learning.
To transition to more beneficial conference experiences and education, we need to shake up the traditional format. It’s time to move from boring to beneficial!
What are some ways you’ve experienced brain-friendly learning at conferences recently? What are some simple things to do to mix up your traditional conference experience to make it feel fresh and new?
Filed Under: Conference Education, Experience Design
I’m not recommending boring. And yet, I get some of my best thinking done in boring (or ineffective) sessions! No really — I learn what not to do; I observe participants to see how they react and whether they leave or stay there; I doodle (which helps my brain stay engaged to pick up some nuggets which can happen in even the most awful session); I daydream and think and even rest. Maybe we should build in more daydreaming time and remind people how to. Or did you already write that elsewhere?
So glad you’re not recommending boring! I hate paying for boring! I’m right there with you about recommending more “adult white space” for reflection, thinking, meditating and general ruminating on what to do next.
Thanks for reading and commenting too.
Boring stinks! It’s good to mix it up! People will remember more and become loyal if we can connect with them emotionally. Here’s a related article. http://bit.ly/event-science-2
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