Meetings & Your Brain

A Very Short Guide to Brain-Friendly Meetings

John Medina's work on brain science has been popping up all over the place.

Convene first wrote about molecular biologist John Medina’s “brain rules” — his summary of what scientists know about how our brains work  — in 2010. I interviewed Medina again a couple of years later, right before his knockout presentation at 2012 Convening Leaders.japanese-brain-rules-cover

Lately, Medina’s work has been popping up all over: I’ve spotted the molecular biologist’s Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School at the Melbourne airport and prominently displayed at the Barnes and Noble at Union Square in New York City.  It says something that a six-year-old book is occupying prime retail real estate, including that Medina’s messages — that we need to sleep in order to think and that we learn better in interactive, sensory-rich settings — have gone mainstream. (Not to mention global.)

To review, here are few brain-friendly tips from Medina that are particularly relevant to meeting planners:

1. The brain likes information in chunks. It’s better to give six 10-minute talks than one hour-long lecture.

2. Emotional arousal helps the brain learn. Medina adds an “emotional hook” to every 10-minute section during his talks, because the brain remembers the emotional components of an experience better than anything else.

3. Physical exercise boosts brainpower.  The best business meeting would have everyone walking at about 1.8 miles per hour, Medina says.

4. Sleep loss cripples thinking. For that reason, Medina’s clients who once worked late into the night, now knock off early enough that there is time for exercise and sleep.

5. Brains need breaks. The most common communication mistake is relaying too much information, without spending enough time connecting the dots.

6. Images communicate more effectively than words. A typical PowerPoint presentation has nearly 40 words per slide. “Professionals everywhere need to know about the incredible inefficiency of text-based information and the incredible effects of images.

And for more about meetings and your brain, see “Audio, Visual, Neurological” an interview with Andrea Sullivan of BrainStrength Systems.

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.