Successful Meetings Magazine and Janet Sperstad hosted a twitter chat about brain-friendly meeting design. Here’s a recap of all the questions and answers.


Question #1:  How has technology changed the way attendees learn and how should #meetingprofs adapt their programs?

  • Laptop open? User is less satisfied with the meeting & neighbor’s attention decreases by 20%.
  • Different technologies produce different learning. Know your objective and the best technologies for achieving it.
  • Tech makes it easier to extend the learning, whether sending materials before a meeting or sending follow-ups after.
  • People can learn material ahead of time so that meetings can be used for interactive discussions.
  • The brain needs time to digest info just like our body digests food.
  • Technology allows learning in person or remotely too.
  • Know your audience and incorporate the tech they are using into your event. Work with it, not against it! Use phones/mobile apps for live polling and crowd sourcing.
  • I think we sometimes forget that the speaker is now changing how they provide content at meetings.
  • The speaker now has to adapt their content to meet everyone. Not just the audience in the room.
  • You’re seeing Q&A changing with social ambassadors as the virtual moderator.
  • Using #snapchats or #FacebookLive for one-on-one with speakers.


Questions #2: How can #meetingprofs accommodate both tech-savvy attendees and those who prefer traditional classroom-style learning?

  • Have signs on front tables: “Full Focus–All In” & back tables: “For those who use technology”.
  • It’s important to meet attendees where they’re at while encouraging the use of new tech. Have a help/info booth for new tech.
  • Make time for high energy & a time for quiet reflection, for input & output, for working alone & for collaborating with others.
  • #MeetingProfs can accommodate both by asking certain questions during registration to help be more prepared on-site.
  • Provide options for how content is shared & consider low-tech alternatives. Offer easy instructions & support.
  • Some events have mentor programs for first-time attendees. How about a program for the tech-phobic?


Question #3: What can #meetingprofs do to reduce ambient stress in a meeting or event environment?

  • Effective lighting, acoustics, biophilia, and ergonomic elements must be considered.
  • At the IncentiveBuyers Conference, #LansdowneResort‘s ergonomic meeting chairs equalled comfort and less stress.
  • Mask noise with darkness. Use pin spot lighting to draw attention from the brain & increase focused attention.
  • Manage expectations. Inform event stakeholders that “it is what it is” & here are some options for working around the “noise”.
  • Design meeting spaces for interaction & alone time. Ensure #reflection is honored. Serve “smart” foods for energy.
  • People learn best when they feel safe, know the makeup of your audience & provide tracks & habitats that accommodate everyone.
  • In my experience, insufficient Wi-Fi seems to stress meeting attendees more than anything else.
  • Provide spaces/areas that allow for comfort – nontraditional seating, lounges, quiet rooms, etc.
  • Proper acoustics. If attendees are expending all their energy to try to hear, you will mentally lose them.
  • Room lighting, seating set up or provide a stress-free room at the meetings.
  • At meetings we so often focus on the “networking” parts and not enough reflection.
  • Visually distinctive room arrangement; tech-driven or eye-to-eye connection. Tables in back, comfy seating in front.


Question #4: What types of foods should #meetingprofs offer attendees for energy and mental stamina?

  • Minimize white flours and sugars at breakfast. Lunch should be light.
  • @theAlexPalmer wrote a feature “Brain Food for Meetings” last October: …
  • I’ll eat the fruit & veggie dippers but LOVE smoothies as an option at events.
  • Ideal when healthy bites can be tucked away for when individual attendees feel the energy dip.
  • Protein snacks are great; however, remember our #nutallergy Some granola treats may have nuts.
  • Good for you & for the planet- Think FLOSS: Fresh, Local, Organic, Seasonal, Sustainable foods.
  • Serve chicken, fish, vegetables, and fruit. Work with your food service provider to create menus that give the brain a boost.
  • @MGMGrand @StayWellMeetings has menus from @ClevelandClinic 
  • Dried fruit, veggie or kale chips are great for snacks. Also, go #organic and #local.
  • In our cover story this month, we discuss @Westin‘s partnership with The Juicery. 
  • Water, water everywhere. Hydrate those participants! Get creative w/ H20 distribution/presentation. Invigorate with fruit infusion.


Question #5: How do you keep attendees’ attention during a long meeting? How do you schedule content, what delivery formats do you use?

  • Other brain-engaging activities include building towers; playing Tic-Tac Two, a spinoff of the original game; and doodling.
  • Consider the city/venue first. At ski resort destination, break up long education meeting by incorporating a ski break between sessions.
  • Small group breakouts can be extremely effective! They facilitate a lot more discussion too.
  • Create a time & space for both structured & informal social learning. Our brains are highly attuned to what others think/feel.
  • We use silly putty and stretchy “hairy balls” from a kids store a lot.
  • Breaks do more than add precious minutes to your meeting agenda. They can actually produce a more effective meeting.
  • Activities are great…people love competitions and games too!
  • Every 25 minutes or so you better move those participants bodies to keep their brains/ideas moving. Incorporate quick activity.
  • Get attendees outside! The brain loves nature. The brain is a battery. Power it up. #biophilia.
  • Give attendees something to fidget with. It helps some people focus. Play dough, legos, slinkies etc. are always crowd pleasers!
  • In the morning, while the brain is fresh–deep sessions. After lunch? Brain, body digesting. Good time for reflection such as case studies.
  • Welcoming virtual sessions in the afternoon. Provide guests the option to view in other locations.
  • Diversify content & presentation types. A good mix of formal presentations, hands on workshops, group collaboration.
  • Panels, fireside chats, brain breaks like coloring or improv session, move outdoors if possible & CSR projects.
  • Active participation means asking participants to solve a problem, share experiences, collaborate in small groups.
  • If sessions are going to be long, think how you can incorporate flexible seating & ‘chunks’ of learning/collaborating time.
  • Offer interactive formats, avoid death by PPT, ensure attendees are actively participating rather than passively listening.
  • Attendees have to move & feel that they are a partner in the learning experience. #collaboration
  • Less about attention, more about quality thinking. Mind wandering creates ideas. 


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