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IMEX America Speaker Janet Sperstad on Happier People, Happier Meetings


Slow meetings is about mindfulness and intentionality. It’s about leveraging the brain’s capacity for insights and creating moments of meaning and less about the activity of learning and consumption of education. Slowing down a meeting creates more time for driving meaning and thinking. As we all know, one of the top reasons why people attend meetings is to learn something new. In our industry it’s common thought that if we have a meeting packed with presentations, discussions and technology to engage the audience it’s a good meeting.

Your brain processes information in one of two ways: automatically or controlled. Social cognition refers to it as the X (Reflexive) and C (Reflective) systems. The X system (automatic) is fast and spontaneous, such as when the doctor hits your knee with a rubber hammer and your foot jerks up or a routine task that doesn’t require thought like tying your shoe. The C system (controlled) is more intentional, requires thinking in a deeper way and is much slower.

So what does this mean for our world of meetings and events? It’s about creating white space and light space for thinking. We must have moments that pique our interest and excitement, engaging the senses and physical self, the sweet spot of the X system. We also must use elements that engage our reflective processing system like art, poetry, language, abstract thinking and patterns in nature.

Food for thought: The part of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex that is responsible for your brain’s executive functions and memory resides in the C system. Guess where happiness is found in the brain? That’s right, the C system. So creating breathing space for reflective thinking and moments of meaning makes happier people, and happier people make a more successful meeting.


Join MPI Daily Keynote Janet Sperstad to explore how to plan with deeper meaning, innovation and insight in mind at IMEX America in Las Vegas. Visit to learn more about MPI keynote speakers and other educational opportunities at IMEX America.

About the Author

Janet Sperstad

Janet Sperstad, CMP (MPI Wisconsin Chapter), is program director for meeting and event management at Madison College.