What meetings do best

I have been going over my notes from the Pharma Forum 2012 lately, and this part really struck me: Mary Beth McEuen, executive director of The Maritz Institute, held a fascinating session on how to use the neuroscience of engagement to create more meaningful events. During the session, she discussed a Cornell study on face-to-face meetings that found three main things meetings can accomplish better than other means of communication:

1. They capture attendees’ attention with relevance and novelty. And capturing attention can be difficult. People tend to think they’re multitasking, when in fact they’re just switching back and forth between tasks so that no one thing gets their full attention or is stored in long-term memory. “When we build in novelty and provide a multisensory experience, we pop people out of autopilot” and gain their full attention, McEuen said.

2. They inspire a positive emotional climate. Emotions are contagious, she said, and “people adjust their behavior to the emotion of the room.” Emotions also are stored in our memories. So when you reflect on a meeting, the emotions you felt at the time will come back—and it will reflect on how you feel about the organization.

3. Face-to-face meetings are where you build your web of human relationships.

What else do face-to-face gatherings do that other types of communications just can't quite accomplish? I'd add that the good ones provide a safe place to experiment and try out new ideas and ways of doing things, which emboldens people to actually put what they learn into practice.

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