Do you remember the children’s activity connect the dots?
This paper and pencil puzzle contained a sequence of numbered or lettered dots. Your task was to draw a line connecting dots in the right series so that the outline of an object was revealed.
As we got older, the dot to dot activities became more complex. Sometimes we had to solve math problems or interpret symbols to identify the next dot in the chain.
Your Brain’s Web Of Connected Dots
Your memories are like large dot to dot webs of data connecting information in your brain.
Think of your memories as huge fishing nets made of connecting points of data from different parts of your brain. The more you are able to connect new information with past information, the thicker that part of the fishing net. The more connections that you can make, the more likely you will be able to retrieve that information in the future.
Whenever you mentally start connecting the dots, you trigger your brain’s hippocampus, the traffic cop for learning. The hippocampus then sets into motion the transfer of the new information into long-term memory.
Learning Starts With Connecting Dots In The Brain
In order for us to learn something, we must be able to connect the dots. We must associate new information with our past experiences and previous knowledge in our brains.
If we don’t, the information is not moved from our short-term memory to our long-term memory. If we don’t get the opportunity to think about the information and associate it with memories we already have, the new information is quickly forgotten. (So, factor that into your meeting ROI equations!)
Lectures Are Life-Threatening To Learning And Destroy The Ability To Connect Dots
The precarious challenge that every conference organizer must face is that our conferences need less teaching, less presenting, less speaking and more time dedicated to connecting the dots. Our conference participants need more time to think about the information and generate associations with existing knowledge.
Listening passively to lectures is life-threatening to learning. You brain is not hardwired to listen and think at the same time. It cannot connect new information to past knowledge if it is still listening.
To create more connecting of the dots, we simply need to get people talking to each other about ideas. When you start associating new information with old, your brain’s hippocampus ignites. Then it transforms new information into long-term memory, connecting the dots.
Practical Conference Steps To Encourage Connecting The Dots
It’s time for conference organizers to evaluate how much time attendees spend listening versus generating (connecting the dots). We need dedicated time for both. Currently, the majority of our conference schedules are dedicated to listening, which by itself slays learning.
- Ask presenters to cut their content in half. Encourage them to allow their listeners time to discuss salient points.
- Give participants time to create ownership of the new content. Ask listeners to associate or contextualize the new information with their own experiences.
In short, conference participants will gain greater value if they are presented with an idea and then asked to frame it and express how it affects them. Asking the listener to consider situations where they could apply the new information or to make decisions about future actions based on the new data incites and excites the brain.
For more information:
Using AGES To Design Brain Friendly Conferences
Creating A Brain-Friendly Not Brain-Adverse Event
Learning That Lasts Through The AGES, white paper by Neuroscientists Dr. Lila Davachi, Dr. Tobias Keifer and Dr. David Rock
What are some practical steps you can do to create conference experiences that create more connecting of the dots? What implications do brain association and generation have on the average conference schedule?