Today, we are delighted to have a conversation with Janet Sperstad, another icon in our industry. Janet has had a huge impact on the entire meetings and events industry. She is very knowledgeable about neuroscience, and she is currently involved in academia, teaching our future colleagues in the Meetings and Events Industry.
Janet is joining us today to talk about the way our brains work, risk and reward, optimizing the way you perform, and the importance of being authentic.
About Janet Sperstad
Janet is all about driving excellence in meeting and event management execution and education. She has dedicated her career to defining the competencies and career pathways that communicate meeting planning as a discipline that requires skills in the social and cognitive sciences, as well as in executive leadership.
Janet is currently serving as Faculty Director at Madison College in Wisconsin, where she created the very first Associate Degree in Meeting and Event Management in the US. She was also instrumental in developing a graduate program in meeting management through the Copenhagen Business School.
Janet has made several important contributions to the industry, and her voluntary service includes some high-profile leadership roles that have had an impact on the Meetings and Events Industry as a whole. She has served as Chair of the CMP Governance Commission, Member of IAEE Faculty and Education Committees, and as a member of the PCMA Convening Leaders Content Committee. And, in 2016, she was named Changemaker, and one of the 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry.
Gaining recognition and awards
Janet has been in the industry for more than thirty years. Her dedication to the industry has resulted in numerous awards. And she has been recognized for the culmination of her life’s work.
A quiet and successful influencer
Janet is a quiet and steady influencer who prefers to look at the long game. She attributes a lot of her success to having been ready when the right opportunities came up.
A recovered event planner
Janet worked as an event planner for a long time, but she eventually became bored with it. She describes herself as a recovered event planner because she found that the boredom was making her lazy, so she was not doing the same quality of work that she had always done before.
Working in academia
Working in academia, Janet constantly sees people pushing themselves beyond their comfort zones to learn something new. In seeing that, she knew that it was time for her to return to school. So she became inspired to get a Master’s Degree in the discipline of neuroscience because it has relevance to what gets done in the industry beyond logistics and strategic meetings management.
Event professionals are in the business of people
Because event professionals are in the business of people first, Janet thinks that they need to look at the disciplines of cognitive science, physical science, and psychology before looking at the data and financials, to help the industry move forward.
Looking at the industry through the lens of neuroscience
Looking at the industry through the lens of neuroscience, some things stood out for Janet. The first thing she noticed was that we’re all the same, in terms of our brains, so we all tend to act similarly, across the globe. Also, we’re all driven by threats, and our brains are hard-wired to keep us safe.
Currently, with COVID, the uncertainty is driving people’s behavior more than anything. So people are willing to do things outside of the norm that will make them feel safe.
Data helps us minimize risk and maximize reward. Humans love data because it predicts, and our brains cannot do that.
A profound discovery
Ten years ago, Janet Sperstad discovered that the two things that drive our brains are minimized risk and maximized reward. She also noticed that the threat of loss drives her students’ behavior more than the opportunity for reward does.
This profound discovery has influenced how she thinks and what she does.
Some tips for meeting planners and event organizers
To cope with the current situation, Janet suggests that you center yourself and focus your attention. And remind yourself of all the qualities and skills that you have today, that you had three months ago, and that you will have in three months.
Learn to work smarter, not harder, and when you’re exhausted, stop or take a break.
Our human brains cannot multi-task. So it also helps if you make a list of all the things you need to get done and then prioritize the most important things for the day.
Links and Resources:
Recommended books: Two Awesome Hours by Dr. Josh Davis
The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson
When by Daniel H. Pink
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