Applying Neuroscience Principles to Virtual Experience Design

Guest author Avinash Chandarana, MCI Group, Learning & Development Director

How can a virtual learning experience maintain sufficient levels of attention? How can engagement be driven in the online space? Applying neuroscience principles to virtual experience design can lead to higher levels of engagement, content retention and ROI. 

People attend events because they want to see, learn, share, and network with peers. While formats differ and need to adapt for the online space, it is key to ensure that the virtual edition is an experience that delivers the intended expectations. To achieve that, the brain becomes the central focus of online experience design. 

Why the brain? The brain is our primary tool for learning. It’s the core of human thought, memory, consciousness and emotion. So, it only makes sense to align online session design with how the attendees brain functions and invariably connects with an online experience. 

Applying basic principles and research in neuroscience, adult learning and today’s consumer learner behaviour can have a great impact on the design of effective online experiences. Weaving these principles into an overall design strategy leads to higher levels of engagement, content retention and ROI. 

Here are 6 neuroscience-based tips to help you design relevant and engaging virtual experiences for your attendees. 

1. Break content into bite-sized chunks 

Chunking is the concept to remember. According to a renowned psychology paper, the number of information a person can consciously process is seven, plus or minus two. Just as trying to carry too many things at once might cause you to drop something, requiring learners to grasp too many concepts at once can cause them to ‘drop’ that information. The chunking technique enables the brain to digest and assimilate content more effectively, making it far easier to integrate into long-term memory.  

2. Introduce a jolt 

The common assumption is that during any face-to-face sessions, attention is at its highest in the first 10 to 12 minutes and then drops as the attendee gets tired of concentrating or gets distracted. In online sessions, the attention span can be as short as 3 to 4 minutes.   

However, studies show that the attention is greater when the speaker introduces something new or different, such as humour or visual aid, thus breaking predictive behaviour. This element of change, ideally involving some sort of interactive feature, is essential in a virtual environment. 

3. Enhance the relevancy of learning 

The relevancy of a session should become obvious within the first five minutes by showing learners that it will address their concern. This is because relevance plays a crucial role in cognition. When information is perceived as relevant, cognitive efforts significantly increase, leading to much higher cognitive effects. 

4. The spacing effect 

In 1885, psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus found out that people forget a whopping 80% of material learned within 24 hours. This discovery led to the so-called “Forgetting Curve”. In contrast to crammed, intense learning, learning that takes place over an extended period gives to the brain enough ‘space’ to take in new facts. Attendees will experience greater success by spreading out their content review and recall over time, instead of engaging in one-time, overloaded top-down sessions. 

5. Create a multisensory experience 

People learn best when all their senses are engaged and when their imagination is most active. Experts confirm that sessions that use two or more senses are more effective than those using only one sense. 

Help online attendees create strong and lasting memories by making them imagine colours, hear sounds and experience emotions. Using creative virtual event design, consider activities that require movement, engage taste buds or even the sense of smell.  

6. Trigger the right emotions 

Learning isn’t merely cerebral – it’s emotional, too. Researchers have confirmed how emotions affect mental processes.  Put simply – adults will learn and engage if they care. They’ll pay attention if they feel encouraged. They’ll connect to others if they feel welcomed. Therefore, emotions are too entrenched in the learning process to ignore them as an important learning factor. Triggering the right emotions can help attendees learn better and increase overall engagement during a session. 

At MCI, we recognise the challenges that shifting from a physical setting to an online experience entail for organisations. Through our expertise in both online and offline experiences, we guide organisations to successfully transform their conferences, meetings and events to ensure the highest value for all stakeholders to learn how to apply neuroscience to a virtual experience that achieves your objectives. 

Guest author Avinash Chandarana, MCI Group, Learning & Development Director

Published by hugoslimbrouck

I am a destination marketer with a specialisation in meetings, events, conferences and incentives. Destination marketing, training and consulting as well as business networking are the things I'm good at. For the past 14 years I worked for the MCI Group and managed our global portfolio of strategic partners for the Ovation Global DMC brand. I'm also a past president of SITE and JMIC. During my career, I travelled an average of 120 days which allowed me to build a global network of buyers, prospects and influencers. Please check me out under my LinkedIn profile as well, either under my name or my alias hugosmartypants. I'm a father of 4 and grandfather of 6. Hiking out on the countryside is one of my favourite hobbies.

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