Meetings and Your Brain: Human Connection Under the Microscope

Jacques W. Martiquet, aka 'The Party Scientist,' says he has 'hacked the code' of bringing excitement and joy to digital events.

Author: Barbara Palmer       

Jacques W. Martiquet

“Humans are hard-wired for sharing joy with one another,” says Jacques W. Martiquet, , aka “The Party Scientist.”

Jacques W. Martiquet, aka “The Party Scientist,” includes a red balloon emoji in his email signature and bops onto YouTube videos wearing a sparkly silver fedora and bright turquoise patterned socks. Clearly, Martiquet likes to have a good time, but his designation as a scientist is no joke.

A Vancouver resident, Martiquet studied pharmacology and public health at the University of British Columbia, but shifted his emphasis after working as a medic at local festivals and observing how disconnected people were within the party culture. Martiquet began researching human well-being, “geeking out on the relationship between human connection and longevity, health, and happiness,” he told an online gathering he hosted for Creative Mornings in August. “Humans are hard-wired for sharing joy with one another.”

Martiquet cofounded a company that organized drug-and-alcohol-free parties in 13 countries before expanding his business to include designing experiences that increased human connection at events for clients, including corporations. Since the pandemic, Martiquet has adapted what he’s learned to digital events, and has “hacked the code,” he writes on his blog, “of producing the exhilaration and liberation we thought was only possible with a giant physical festival stage.”

The following is excerpted from “The Party Scientist’s Top 10 Tools for Virtual Joy and Connection.” You can find the full list at thepartyscientist.com.

  1. Designate a speaker. Give people turns to speak. In a large group, interruptions can destroy the psychological safety within a meeting. If people want to speak or ask a question, I encourage them to let me know through the chat function. Alternatively, I use people’s names to nominate them to speak.
  1. Leverage music. Music is the universal human language — before starting an event, play a lighthearted song, one that everyone recognizes and one that elicits laughter.
  1. Leverage movement. Getting enough blood flow to the brain is important. Physical exercise releases endorphins, which improves our mood. I like to have participants stand up and clap to a song or follow a few simple movements — you can have participants lead these movements, as well.
  1. Ensure two-way communication. If participants are watching instead of interacting with others, it is less likely they will experience joy and belonging. I use the breakout room function in Zoom to allow more interactions among participants. I also use an open mic at the end of the event, called the “Unconditional Round of Applause.”
  1. Let participants be seen. To be seen and heard is a psychological need. During group activities, I spotlight different participants, which means that the entire group sees them on the screen. Meeting hosts, stop hogging the spotlight!
  1. Do or watch something laughter-inducing together. Shared laughter is medicine. Find a meme or short video that is innocently funny and share your screen and computer audio. Make sure to unmute participants so you can hear everyone laughing.
  1. Do a compliment shoutout. I encourage participants to either (a) use the chat to describe and compliment what someone did or (b) I give the mic to someone who wants to verbally compliment another participant in the group. Oftentimes, without explicit permission to recognize our peers, we don’t do it. This is an excellent way to end meetings.

Barbara Palmer is deputy editor at Convene.