Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 11 2016

This Conference Gave Attendees A Gift They Rarely Find On-Site

David McMillin


Conferences, conventions and meetings all share one primary component: noise. As thousands of participants move from sessions to meals to receptions to after-parties, a constant roar of conversation echoes throughout the host property. All that talking creates plenty of momentum for the on-site experience, but there’s one big problem: participants don’t have any time to think. Rather than truly processing and analyzing information, the traditional conference environment can often feel like a soaking sponge. We take in everything that comes our way, and by the end of the experience, we have to wring out our brains once we return to work.

At C2 in Montréal, conference organizers designed the experience to deliver a prized rarity: quiet time. In the midst of educational sessions, unconventional networking opportunities and a range of activities, participants explored a meditation garden. They weren’t on their own, though. Instead, they signed up for appointments that ensured appropriate spacing between visitors. A pair of headphones with a pre-recorded audio track guided them through the garden. The tour began in the midst of the C2 Lab — an unlikely place to begin a meditative journey. As the hub of action for more than 6,000 participants, the Lab shared plenty of similarities with most conference environments: eating, drinking, talking and trading business cards. However, the narrator’s instructions were simple: block out the noise right now; this is your time to get in touch with yourself.


See the doorway ahead of you, his voice said. Walk toward it, but slowly. Take a big, deep breath. Now, slowly, let it out.

Then, once attendees arrived in the garden, his instructions helped activate the senses. From running their hands through water to closing their eyes to sampling plants (yes, actually eating them), the entire experience was unlike anything else I’ve ever done during a conference. It was a reminder of the importance of giving participants on-site opportunities to take a break from the frantic session-lunch-session-happy hour rush so they can refresh, recharge and have the mental capacity to continue to be creative throughout the rest of the program.

Are you implementing any innovative ways of helping your audience find some Zen moments during your meeting? You don’t have to build a garden in your venue. From yoga classes to massages to tai chi, there are loads of opportunities. Go to Catalyst to share your thoughts on how to make meetings and conferences feel more relaxing.

Be sure to check out more about C2’s approach to engagement at PCMA.org. Start with “Circus Tents And Curiosity: Rethinking Adult Education.”

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