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  1. P McCrory

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    A phenomenon often noted at conferences is the seeming unconsciousness or unresponsiveness of members of the audience. Interestingly it is not typically the speaker that notes this finding but rather other members of the audience. This may have something to do with the dulcet tones of someone next to you snoring away that interrupts the otherwise efficient note-taking that you are there for.

    Lectures, it is said, are the means of transferring notes from the pages of the speaker to the pages of the audience without going through the mind of either. As such, sleeping during meetings may not necessarily impede this process. The speaker can of course drone on and on and on without as much as a break in the flow unaware of the passing slumber of his audience.

    Recent ground breaking research involved an analysis of this phenomenon at a 2 day internal medicine lecture series.1 The three observers noted the occurrence of “nod-off episodes per lecture” (NOELs) that happened in the audience during the lectures. Being Canadians, they counted only one nod-off episode per listener colleague per lecture—a fact that may underestimate the incidence of truly boring speakers. Nodding off episodes were used rather than “sleeping” as the observers felt that …

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