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Purposeful Meeting Planners Get Brainy

Great destination… check
Quality venues, hotels & transportation… absolutely
Strong content & speakers … you bet
Creative F&B … forks up
Networking & experiences … roger that
Technology … covered
Understanding how the brains of my attendees work … WHAT ?!@#%&*???

As meeting pros we are well versed in the key elements needed for great events, conferences, or meetings, but when was the last time (or even the first time) we thought about the brains of our attendees, and how understanding brain function can help us create even stronger gatherings?

I’m not talking about participants’ minds in terms of learning and networking at a conscious level. I’m talking about the way their brains—and ours—are designed and wired at a subconscious level and how that affects engagement, creativity, context co-creation, and more.

The Power of Behavioral Science
The study of how we act, and interact, based on our brains is called behavioral science. By knowing some basic tenets of the field and building our meetings with these in mind, we can strengthen what we offer, and get closer to the coveted “seat at the table.”

Part of getting “headier” also involves creating more “Purposeful Meetings” as well—meetings or events planned with specific outcomes and attendee behaviors in mind, which, in turn, are more engaging, inspiring, and enjoyable, and create positive and lasting results.

How to define and create Purposeful Meetings through behavioral science is among the IMEX Group’s annual Talking Point for 2017 (as well as through technology, meetings design, health and well-being, and legacy creation), with programs offered at IMEX in Frankfurt this May and IMEX America in the fall.

Demystifying Science for Practical Use
Have no fear, however, you don’t need to be a scientist or professor to figure out how to take simple learnings from behavioral science and apply them to your meetings.

Here’s how some leading meeting and coaching minds (and IMEX Frankfurt educators) are thinking about it:

Janet Sperstad, director of Madison College’s Event Management Associate degree, says, “Everyone walks into our meetings with something in common—a brain. Each of those brains takes in 11 billion bits of information every second. Only 40 of those will ever actually be processed.” To increase the odds that our sessions or interactions resonate and lead to action, she advises programs to be as purpose-driven and focused as possible. Giving attendees opportunities to mingle and acclimate before a session kicks off also gets them more relaxed and receptive. Additionally, making participants feel like they’ve found their tribe—whether through signage, content, music, or activities is powerful too. (Be on the look out for preliminary results from Janet’s “Purposeful Meetings Research Report: Creating Deeper Meaning” at her IMEX Frankfurt 2017 keynote, with full results to be released in a whitepaper, with the support of PSAV, at IMEX America 2017.)

Jon Bradshaw, founder and CEO of the Meetology Lab, believes all of us can have stronger people connections and communications by leveraging practical psychological findings. For example, laughter creates a stronger bond and gently mirroring others’ body language can build co-operation. On the flip side, having a cell phone on a table during a meeting can erode trust and empathy. “People are social creatures wired to interact with others,” he says.

Executive coach and educator Tremaine Du Preez has an expertise in critical thinking and decision making, urging that we be aware of behavioral stumbling blocks—like stress and biases—that can affect how we process information and make choices. “We can’t make completely rational decisions. Emotion is like a cocktail—each one has a different effect on the body in the same way that a Long Island Iced Tea has a different effect than a Mojito!” Further, she points out, our approach to small decisions impacts how we make larger ones.

With a meetings industry brimming with beautiful minds and creative powerhouses if we can also tap into the brain power of behavioral science, we’ll continue to raise the bar for the value, impact and ROI of meetings.

Go ahead and try it. I promise it won’t make your head hurt!!!!

Resources: Brain Science and Meetings
IMEX Purposeful Meetings Talking Point
Jon Bradshaw’a Meetology Minutes Blog
Tremaine Du Preez’s Thoughts-on-Thinking Blog
IMEX Interview with Janet Sperstad
TED Talks on Neuroscience

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