Sleep + Conferences = Learning

Why is it important for conference attendees to sleep? This brain expert knows.


It’s clear that we just can’t get enough of molecular biologist John Medina. A  2012 PCMA Convening Leaders general session speaker, Dr. Medina made not one but two return engagements on Monday — as PCMA’s Education Conference opening general session speaker, and then later in the afternoon at a deep-dive session. (We’ve also interviewed Dr. Medina in Convene several times, most recently in our May issue.)

Facilitator Adrian Segar, who has been helping to make the entire conference more participatory, got in a few questions for Dr. Medina at the afternoon session before turning it over to attendees, who packed an alcove of Fort Lauderdale’s sun-filled convention center. Dr. Medina’s booming voice and wonderfully manic presentation style — which are almost too big for a ballroom to contain — swelled this pocket of the center, keeping the group riveted.

That went double for me when Dr. Medina started talking about sleep, the cover story of our June issue. In his animated style, he shared the results of a lab study that showed that while a rat was sleeping, its brain was relearning the maze it had run during the day.

While our story explored a number of reasons why good sleep is important during conferences, Dr. Medina nailed it with his particular approach to human brain function: It turns out that sleep’s most important purpose is to enable us to process what we’ve learned during the day.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.

  • Diane Goodman

    This is a great article to start a discussion about diversity of speakers at meetings. Some industries are more resistant than others. We actually are finding an increase in the number of requests we are getting for diversity in the speakers we recommend. And, the number of highly qualified, dynamic women speakers is also on the rise.

  • Mary Wagner

    Thank you for a thoughtful article. I work on agenda development for a large business-focused conference. This is an issue that, as a female, I have raised, and the the argument here goes beyond the one stated by the individual quoted at the vendor the article at the end of your article:

    “…….If they want a conference where attendees can learn about what’s going on at the cutting edge of the field, develop new collaborations, and overall, do better science, he says, then attracting a diverse crowd of both speakers and attendees is the best way to achieve those goals.”

    Someone will usually raise the point that “diverse” doesn’t necessarily equal “most expertise,” and that it’s the depth of knowledge and vision that each speaker brings to the stage that matter, attributes that are viewed as gender-neutral. When there are fewer C-level executives in our field, which seems to be the case, it’s a smaller pool of women speaker prospects. It’s been a challenge to argue that diversity for diversity’s sake vs. subject matter expertise without regard to gender delivers the best agenda lineup.