Your attendee walks into a cold, dimly lit meeting room with no natural light. . They see scores of empty chairs and the PowerPoint presentation equipment has a black and white slide indicating only the title of the presentation. Your attendee starts to shiver as they take their seat and looks around for a cup of coffee – only to realize it is outside the room by the registration area. Once back at their seat, the speaker gets up on stage and goes for a full 90-minutes covering 120 slides; never once taking a comment or question from the audience. 

Let me ask you this:

What did that attendee learn?

I will tell you: Nothing. Nada. Zero. 

Why? Because they were too focused on their discomfort and boredom to actually learn. They disengaged as soon as they sat down. and the truth of the matter is, as much as we know about the brain, speakers and meeting planners still allow boring presentations in cold, boxy, over chaired rooms. 

Janet Sperstad, CMP of Madison Area Technical College recently shared in PCMA Convene some tips to make your meetings more brain friendly. Here they are, along with a few of my own, to meet the primary mission of meetings: To allow attendees to learn. 

Brain Engagement Tip #1: Stories Stick

According to Sperstad, 94% of the information our brains process is visual. Use images instead of words. Tell stories instead writing gobs of text. We all love stories, that is why we read and go to the movies. 

Brain Engagement Tip #2: Plants Help

19% of brainstorming sessions yielded more ideas when a plant was present compared to those with no plants, Sperstad shared. If you can't bring in a plant, use nature scenes on the opening slide. If attendees are filling the room before the session starts, have a slide with a nature backdrop, the topic and speaker. I would add to include the speaker's email and social handles. Everyone waits until that last slide, but the first one can be up there 10 minutes before the session starts. 

Brain Engagement Tip #3: Chunk it Down

It has been proven, over and over again, that we learn in segments of 3s and 5s. This is why we have 3-digit area codes and 5-digit zip codes. Most people remember the first, second and third points – but very few remember anything beyond that. 

So here are a few tips to help chunk your speaker's materials:

  • Every slide has an image
  • Maximum of 36 words (6 across by 6 rows down) on each slide
  • Use 30-point font
  • 10 slides total in the deck
  • Use bullet points 

Brain Engagement Tip #4: Keep the Room Full

When you enter a restaurant and there are a lot of empty tables what do you think? Only negative thoughts come to mind, am I right? Don't overload the room with tables and chairs in hopes attendees will come at the last minute. Don't worry – they won't – and when you do this, the opposite occurs. Attendees start to wonder if the conference and/or speakers are any good. 

Pack the room. Have very few extra chairs. Keep attendees engaged with the speaker because they are now in a crowded room. 

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