Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

June 24 2015

PCMA EduCon 2015: Brain Food for Your Meetings

Maria Arnone, Chairman, Digital Strategy Taskforce

Opening General Session, Monday, June 15

The PCMA 2015 Education Conference was held June 14-17 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  As usual, the Conference featured a thought-provoking education track that was designed to inspire—from the opening general session. 

The opening general session on Monday featured Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist, and best known for his book, Brain Rules. One of the key points in his session was that under the “old rules” of session planning, a 50-minute lecture was perfectly acceptable. However, now we know those 50 minutes contain 14 million bits of information per second. As a comparison, when you wake up, you can only process 50 bits per second.

Meeting planners must learn to chunk information in order to make it more accessible and memorable for their attendees. There is a natural point in a presentation after about 10 minutes of time that is ideal for the mind to redirect, reflect or take a break. This helps attendees retain information. So, make sure your speakers are adding a little jog in their presentation about every ten minutes to reboot the brain!

An attendee asks Dr. John Medina a question during his follow-up session after his opening general session presentation on Brain Science.

The other major piece of science regarding meeting environments was discussed in the follow-up session. Dr. Medina presented the juxtaposition between the movement towards “open spaces” in offices and convention halls today versus actual brain science.

There has been much said recently about millennials’ desire for a more “holocratic” office culture and environments: That is, removing management hierarchy and instead distributing it across clear roles, which can be executed autonomously, without at micromanaging supervisor. The holocratic concept also translates to modern spaces, both for meetings and work. There is a trend now in office spaces to use the exterior “window” walls for team meetings, group work and even lounge spaces. This space traditionally was reserved for the walled offices for those that had “paid their dues” and earned a better spot. 

Dr. Medina calls this the concept of “prospect” and “refuge.” People want “prospect,” as in wide-open spaces to feel a part of the community, converge and spread out in. They also want “refuge,” or a place for privacy, protection and aloneness. Our meeting environments should also reflect these needs, and as meeting room setups change, these are important considerations. 

For more information on Dr. John Medina and his studies of the brain, see this Convene article.

During a break on Monday.

PCMA and the Fort Lauderdale CVB did a beautiful job with treating the attendees.

Beautiful convention center.

Note the boats out the window of the convention center. You can get anywhere to Fort Lauderdale by boat, actually!

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