By Alison Wallington, Kent Event Centre Manager
Studies have shown that the average person has an optimum 18 minute period of full concentration. While at our desks, it’s likely we naturally take a break between periods of high-level concentration, be it a quick coffee break or casual chat with our colleagues about the Great British Bake off, our brains need that short period of respite before we dive head first into the next task of the day.
Why should we expect delegates at a conference to behave any differently? Chances are, they aren’t likely to focus more just because of a tight event budget and time restrains. Arguably event ROI would be far higher if we allowed short periods of relaxation in between any intense learning sessions. In my view, any event itinerary should allow time to reflect and digest.
Reports examining the effects of ‘green’ or natural settings as a potential natural treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) in the American Journal of Public Health, revealed that simply taking in a little bit of the great outdoors can increase concentration skills in children with ADHD. I believe we should apply this to the events industry and would argue that organisers should take this into account in terms of event agenda and treatment of delegates at any conference or educational orientated events.
I enjoyed Rob Davidson’s piece ‘You Know it makes sense’ in the October issue of Conference News, particularly the quote from Neuroscience specialist Antonio Domasio “We are not thinking beings that feel; we are feeling beings that think.” I think many of us will have been to events where we feel that our concentration levels are perhaps being taken for granted. With such a focus in our industry on audience engagement, I’d argue that getting delegates outdoors is the most important method to achieve that.
Walking has also been proven to increase our creativity. Why not serve the morning refreshment break coffees in take-away cups and encourage delegates to take a walk? Here at Kent Event Centre, we boast 200 acres of outdoor space, including a small area of woodland and even our own camp site.
We not only allow, but actively encourage our clients and delegates to take advantage of free reign of the entire outdoor space for conferences and events. Granted- the wonderful British weather might not always allow for any outdoor rambles, but if it does, I feel it would have a vastly positive effect on delegate’s take-away learnings and overall experience.