The Intersection

How the Brain Responds to AV

When I talk to planners, they consider AV a checklist item,” said Greg Van Dyke, senior vice president of global sales and marketing for PSAV Presentation Services.

“It should be a strategic consideration in their meeting design.” More and more, Van Dyke said, meeting professionals inquire about the educational value of audiovisual, and desire their AV elements to be more than just “fun and cool.”

Determined to spread the word that “audiovisual helps learning,” Van Dyke joined with Andrea Sullivan, president of Brainstrength Systems, and Kati Quigley, CMP, senior director of worldwide partner community events for Microsoft, to present a Corporate HQ session at PCMA Convening Leaders last month on “Using AV to Enhance Learning, Memory, and the Meeting Experience.”

The presentation was made up of experiential methods that placed attendees in the shoes of their own audiences. “[Andrea] helped us find quite a few tangible points in terms of sound and visual imagery,” Van Dyke said, “and how these audiovisual elements can enhance or detract from audience attention and engagement, or the overall message of the meeting.”

Sullivan added: “The brain rewires itself in response to experience. We’re all looking [at how to make] effective, productive, and fun meetings. We want to keep people engaged. One thing that really disengages is bad tech, or tech that doesn’t work, or the wrong tech.”

One rule of thumb: Less is more. “Something exciting with all this color and all this noise can overload us,” Sullivan said. “Sometimes someone has such a cool tech, attendees get focused on the tech and they don’t remember the content.”

It’s also important to keep audience age in mind. “There are huge differences in the ways generations respond to presentations,” Sullivan said. “If you have a younger audience, they are going to want things to be fast, because your neurons fire quicker and you’re able to change tracks sooner, as opposed to Baby Boomers. Things were slower and more linear; we didn’t grow up the same way, so our brains are wired differently.”

By involving their Convening Leaders audience in experiments such as working with color-cue visuals, Sullivan, Van Dyke, and Quigley emphasized their presentation’s message. “Once you feel something in your body, you remember it,” Sullivan said. “It’s about how to create an emotional experience, and how you support that memory. [Planners] will hopefully take a look at their meetings, see what they want to create, and then do it.”

PCMA is partnering with PSAV Presentation Services on The Intersection Series: Where Technology Meets Inspiration, providing insights for planners on how to use technology for greater engagement and learning. Look for new videos each month at — along with related content in The Intersection, Convene‘s newest department.

Sarah Beauchamp

Sarah Beauchamp was formerly assistant editor of Convene.