Aligning Conference Schedules With Neuroscience To Avoid The Attendee Overwhelm Epidemic

Outtake - Nooo! [Overwhelmed]

Too many conferences foster attendee information overload.

The plethora of presenters pushing information at warp speeds cause fragmented attention, overburden brains and data excess.

It’s a silent epidemic that cause stagnate mental engagement. And our conference schedules stretch attendees in ways that may have bigger implications than just unhealthy eating. They cause mental disconnection.

Seven Activities That Promote Good Mental Habits

Neuroscientists Dr. David Rock and Dr. Daniel Siegel created the Healthy Mind Platter that includes seven daily activities we need to foster healthy strong minds.

Meeting professionals that want to create conference schedules that foster healthy minds should consider these activities. These seven activities serve as essential mental nutrients that our brains need to function. By encouraging these activities, organizers encourage attendees to strengthen their brain’s internal connections as well as their connections with other people.

Consider revising your conference schedules to highlight these seven activities and encourage presenters to adopt some of them as well.

1. Focus Time

All conferences should have dedicated time where presenters and facilitators allow attendees to consider how they are going to apply the content they’ve received. End each session 10 minutes early where attendees contemplate what to take home and apply. Have each attendee pair with another and share those goals. Then ask them to commit to follow up with each other 30 to 60 days after the event for a status update.

Too many conferences just shove information at attendees and never allow them time to discuss, digest reflect and consider how to adapt, adopt and apply principles heard.

2. Play Time

Every conference needs dedicated time where attendees are allowed to be spontaneous and creative. Some sponsors have tapped into this need and created room experiences where attendees are allowed to play and enjoy novel experiences.

Why is play time critical to strong mental health? It allows the brain to make new connections and divert attention to something fun while subconsciously processing information.

3. Connection Time

Many conferences call this networking. We need to reinvent and refocus our attention on networking. Speed networking is out. We need to encourage dedicated time where people can deeply connect with others and not on the surface only. This helps activate the brain’s relational circuitry.

4. Physical Time

Some conferences have started their days with yoga, group walks and runs. This is exactly the way to go as aerobic activity strengthens the brain in many ways.

Consider a “Walk and Talk” where attendees pair up and walk with another while discussing what they’ve learned so far.

5. Time In

More conferences need facilitators that help attendees turn inward and reflect on their past and present. We need to encourage deep contemplation of our feelings and thoughts coming from the conference experience. This helps us better integrate with our brains.

6. Down Time

More conferences need to dedicate time where attendees can be non-focused, without any specific goal, and let their minds wander. What if every conference scheduled one to two hours of “Down Time” where attendees could help recharge their brain? What a great way to put the attendees’ mental health first!

7. Sleep Time

Too often our conferences schedule evening events that encourage attendees to stay up past their bedtime! We need to rethink this and give attendees’ brains the rest it needs to consolidate learning as well as recover from the experiences of the day.

How Does Your Conference Schedule Compare?

Go ahead and map out your conference schedule according to these seven mental activities. What percentage of your schedule is dedicated to each activity? What’s missing? Which activities have too much time?

It’s time for our conference organizers to adopt healthy mental schedules just like they’ve adopted healthy food options. Our conferences need to foster lots of opportunities to develop their brains in different ways.

Which of these seven healthy mind activities does your conference schedule need to add? What changes would you need to make to adopt some of these mental activities?

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  1. erin stewart says:

    Thanks, Jeff! I asked the question and you delivered!

  2. Thank you for sharing great ideas! I especially like ‘Walk and Talk’.

  3. Howard Fox says:

    Thanks for this piece. Love that the bridge between Neuroscience and Behavior is becoming accessible.

    Howard Fox

  4. We spend so much time and money on conferences we need to be more diligent in setting up delegates to successfully get tangible benefits. The areas you have outlined are critical to making that happen. Thanks!

  5. Fantastic stuff! This is exactly what we at Canyon Ranch offer our corporate meeting/retreat guests. So nice to see research being done around this topic. Healthy minds equal healthy results for your corporation.

  6. […] how they might apply what they’re learning, what if you gave them the option to “Walk & Talk” with a neighbor? You might map out a few routes that fit the time […]

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