The dictionary defines mindfulness as a “technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them.” Businesses are slowly understanding how moments of reflection help employees to anchor themselves, boost their wellbeing, and play a role in inspiring creativity in the workforce.
On the back of this growing movement, event planners have started to incorporate mindfulness activities into events, adding options such as yoga and meditation that are beneficial in the workplace and can have a lasting impact on a delegate’s private life.
“We’re finding that, increasingly, meeting professionals are focusing on wellbeing in its various forms,” said Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group. “Mindfulness, alongside healthy eating and exercise, is one of the many healthy habits that we consider part of ‘wellbeing’.”
Wellbeing, as Bauer points out, also includes the component of nutrition. A recent Trend in Nutrition & Delegate Wellbeing survey by the IACC showed that nutrition and wellbeing are high priorities for delegates, and food that sharpens mental clarity and improves concentration levels is growing in popularity (38 percent of venues surveyed already offer “brain” food). Mindfulness taps into the burgeoning desire for wellbeing at events.
Some trace the mindfulness movement to the late 1970s, where Zen Buddhist meditation was refashioned into a stress-reduction programme at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. From its beginnings in academia, where it still thrives — Singapore Management University, for instance, offers a mindfulness-based stress-reduction course — mindfulness has evolved into a broad-reaching system of understanding, interpretation, and an effective vehicle of action.
“Mindfulness benefits both our business and personal lives, helping us to process our thoughts and achieve moments of clarity in an increasingly busy world,” Bauer said. “Mindfulness teaches us how to be present in the moment. This in turn helps to lower stress, a challenge faced by many professionals in our industry.”
Global events agency BI Worldwide also appreciates the power of mindfulness. “[Mindfulness] helps participants to both rejuvenate themselves and be more present in meetings,” said David Litteken, vice president, Asia Pacific Region, for BI Worldwide. “In addition, these types of activities add to the collective spirit of the meeting itself and serve as a way to build up your teams while replenishing each individual.”
Mindfulness is a key part of the corporate culture at tech giant Salesforce. CEO Mark Benioff has meditated for decades, collaborating with the Zen monks at Plum Village in France. These monks were instrumental in the introduction of mindfulness zones on every floor of Salesforce’s headquarters in San Francisco, and for creating mindfulness areas at Dreamforce, the company’s annual conference, with the aim of decreasing stress and increasing communication between co-workers. Conference workshops led by monks have included drop-in sessions, guided meditation, walking meditation, mindful eating, and advice on how mindfulness can resolve conflicts and reduce workplace tension.
At BI Worldwide, the effects of various mindfulness initiatives have a deep impact on clients. “People are hesitant at first to participate. After a while, we start to see the attendees become more deeply involved,” Litteken said, and asking about what the activity will be the next day or on the next programme.”
IMEX incorporates wellbeing into its shows through education, keynote speakers, and dedicated areas like the Be Well Lounge, offering free mindfulness and meditation sessions for all attendees. IMEX America 2017 saw the debut of a white-space area, which allowed attendees the chance to sit and reflect on what they’d experienced and learned at the show. “Many delegates have told us how our wellbeing initiatives have helped them to leave the hamster wheel, slow down and reassess what’s really important,” Bauer said. “This provides them with confidence and clarity in their professional lives as well as hopefully some inspiration on how to incorporate elements into their own meetings and events.”