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10 Ways to make your Programs Effective, Engaging and Memorable in the Digital Age.
Everything we experience changes our brain through the brain’s “neuroplasticity,” its lifelong ability to rewire itself. Each new technology we adopt changes not only our culture and lifestyle, but the brain itself. It’s not so much the content delivered — not the information or the entertainment. It’s the activities we’re involved in Andrea Sullivan, M.A. when using the technology.
Neuroscientist Michael Merzenich explains in his “On the Brain” blog that today’s digital technologies are causing “a massive remodeling of our brains. “We feel it in the darting about of our attention, in the way we quickly read bullet points and headlines, and in our growing sense of overload and distraction. We no longer maintain a sustained, focused concentration on one story line. We interact with text, images and links on a screen, all the while scanning for the next thing to appear. Scientists call this ‘continuous partial attention.’?” Sound familiar?
The implications for learning programs are profound, and we will soon see the meetings industry transforming, as new guidelines emerge for instructional design and meeting architecture.
Here are 10 ways to make your programs effective, engaging and memorable.
1 Target learning design to your specific audience.
There’s a new kind of learning diversity in today’s workplace, one based on technology-produced generational differences in brain structure. Older generations focus on one information stream at a time, while younger generations are more comfortable with multiple streams. Half the audience is uncomfortable when people are not fully present, while the other half feels isolated when disconnected from their social media networks. People learn best when they feel safe, so know the composition of your audience and provide tracks and habitats that accommodate everyone.
2 Learning and memory are context-dependent.
Our brains are designed to respond to everything around us through our senses. Some environments are nourishing and supportive, while others are toxic and draining. Lighting, for example, affects both alertness and mood. Similarly, ambient noise can interfere with attention and learning. Optimize the physical space — environmental conditions usually don’t reach our conscious awareness, so we don’t know why we feel sluggish; we just walk away from the meeting uninspired.
3 Provide foods that produce energy and mental clarity.
Different foods produce different conditions in our bodies. A starchy lunch can produce fatigue and “brain fog.” Lean proteins, on the other hand, provide mental clarity and energy. Blueberries trigger neural pathways to There’s a new kind of learning diversity...one based on technology-produced generational differences in brain structure. enhance mental processing speed. Work with your food service provider to create menus that give the brain a boost.
4 Tailor technologies to meeting objectives.
Different technologies produce different learning. Straight information is effectively delivered by virtual means, providing time and cost savings. Meetings for purposes of decision-making, innovation or learning skills will reach their objectives better in person. Know your objective and the best technologies for achieving it.
5 Schedule content with attention capacity in mind.
It’s not about how much information you can provide. Short-term “working memory” is extremely limited. Conferences presenting session after session will overload even the most determined learner. Design meeting architecture to work with the information-processing capacities of the brain.
6 Vary and balance delivery formats.
Learning is state-related, and state is continually changing. There’s a time for high energy and a time for quiet reflection, for input and output, for working alone and for collaborating with others. Design delivery around a variety of choices, so people can effectively manage their own learning states.
7 Create opportunities for collaboration and participation in meeting design.
The Internet generation has a different brain from that of previous generations. Watching television is a receptive activity, while book reading activates brain regions associated with language, memory and visual processing. Internet-users show more activity in the prefrontal cortex, a region associated with decision-making and problem-solving. (Every time we click on a link, that’s a decision.) Younger generations are used to actively participating in their learning. Provide opportunities for collaboration on meeting design: Your attendees will be happily engaged, and they’ll buy-in more to meeting objectives!
8 Make sure presentations engage the whole person.
Active learning increases blood flow, brings more oxygen to the brain, and triggers the release of endorphins. The more senses involved, the more brain regions activated. Engage as many brain regions as possible — this leads to stronger and more resilient connections and memories.
9 Engage the social brain.
Our brains are highly attuned to what other people think and feel. Several brain regions are specifically devoted to mediating social interaction. Plus, there’s a synergy that results from being exposed to new ideas. Create abundant time and space for both structured and informal social learning.
10 Maintain a state of adaptive fitness.
We don’t know what technological innovations will emerge in coming years. Keep your meeting design up-to-date, continually scan the environment to identify opportunities, and be flexible so you can quickly adopt beneficial new technologies. The benefits for meetings and learning programs are clear.