One of the things that surprises me time and time again is how we think our brains work during the day’s events, and how they actually do. Some people say they work better at certain times of the day and fight sleep at others, some suffer through a post-lunch haze of drowsiness, yet get a burst of energy just as the workday – or in the event industry’s case, week or month – is winding down.
Through the course of any given day, we all have natural peaks and lows in our energy levels that can affect our alertness and ability to concentrate. These fluctuations in cognitive performance and memory can be influenced by what we eat (when we can) at events, amount of exercise, how many minutes spent staring at a PowerPoint presentation, and yes, the many hours spent “networking” the night before the big event.
Dr Jane Oakhill, a psychologist at the University of Sussex found that we process two types of memory – declarative and semantic – differently throughout the day (Effects of time of day on the integration of information in text, 04/2011, British Journal of Psychology).
In her research, Oakhill found that in the morning, we tend to be better at declarative memory tasks, which is our ability to recall exact details, like names, places, dates and facts. However, in the afternoon, our brain is better at semantic memory tasks – our ability to integrate new information with what we already know and make it meaningful.
This might explain why there are times in the day when you feel on top of your work and you’re juggling phone calls, emails, face-to-face meetings, organising your year-ahead figures – all like a superhero. And other times in that same day where you fail to remember to prepare for that meeting you have in five minutes you completely forgot about.
Research released by event space The Deck at the National Theatre as part of London Breakfast Meetings Week (6-10 October), supported this notion and found that having meetings or events in the morning have a more positive outcome than those in the afternoon. Seventy-one per cent of those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that they have a more beneficial outcome compared to meetings held later in the day.
The survey went on to show that 65 per cent of people found it easier to concentrate at a breakfast meeting than a meeting held later in the day and three-quarters of the people surveyed said short breakfast events or meetings cause less disruption to their working day than midday, afternoon or evening events.
Feeling like a zombie when you leave the house in the morning for work might seem common, but 72 per cent of respondents said they were more alert and enthusiastic at breakfast events, both of which are key components to successful business.
So, have a think when you’re planning your day in the events industry. You might want to study new material or have meetings earlier in the day with some breakfast, and then spend your afternoons integrating new knowledge into what you already know. And if your timetable is absolutely set in stone – well, maybe consider having either a free Red Bull bar for all your employees, or Pret on speed dial.
What do you think, are you a morning person? Comment below and have your say.