Meeting Zen: Boosting Attendees’ Mental Well-Being

It’s important that your conferences not only offer networking and professional development opportunities for attendees but also keep their mental well-being in mind. If done right, it could allow for deeper learning experiences.

A research report released by PSAV earlier this year showed that ambient stress in a meeting environment, whether crowding, noise, or heat, can adversely affect how attendees learn.

While lots of meetings have already jumped on the health bandwagon, offering wellness challenges, 5Ks, and healthy food and snacks to keep attendees on track while they’re away from home, they’re now beginning to focus on another aspect of their attendees’ health: mental well-being. After all, like the study says, a clear mind will let attendees focus on their learning and block out other stressors that may impede it.

With this in mind, the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in June featured the Think Fit @ALA health and well-being initiative. Part of this offering was an onsite meditation room at the convention center, which had dimmed lights and slow music. Attendees were welcome to enter at any time, whether they needed a little break, wanted to do some stretching, or just relieve some stress.

ALA is not alone in this idea. The Fresh15 Conference in Barcelona had a dedicated space for mental well-being activities. On the agenda: Morning yoga, breathing meditation, and mindfulness training.

Similarly, at the IMEX conference in Las Vegas earlier this month, the Be Well at IMEX America program [PDF] was introduced. Included was a dedicated meditation room off the show floor that offered sessions throughout the program. Mindfulness trainer Lee Papa led the sessions, which were held in the soothing environment filled with Zen-inspired decor and aromatherapy.

Even larger hotel chains with meeting space are getting in on the trend. Last year MGM Resorts International, in partnership with Delos, launched Stay Well Meetings.

The program creates a healthy work environment that helps increase the energy, focus, and productivity of attendees with meeting spaces that offer evidence-based health and wellness elements, including guided meditation and acoustic elements that reduce the noise from outside of the meeting spaces.

“With the creation of the Stay Well Meetings program, we have made a breakthrough in the design and approach of business meetings. These features not only provide health benefits to attendees but also lead to increased productivity, creativity, and collaboration,” said Delos Founder Paul Scialla in a press release.

Late last year Sherry Romello, a senior director at Hilton Worldwide, told Successful Meetings that the company is seeing wellness as an emerging trend that meeting planners are paying particular attention to. “Planners can no longer just focus on the logistics of an event but instead must think holistically about attendees,” she said.

As a meeting attendee at times myself, the constant networking and running from session to session can become overwhelming. I like the idea of offering attendees a quiet space, whether that’s a formally named “meditation room” or just a dedicated spot where attendees can clear their minds. (Perhaps similar to the quiet car on Amtrak, which is where I usually try to snag a seat.)

How have you addressed your attendees’ mental well-being at your meetings and conferences? Please share in the comments.

(Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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