The concept of mindfulness has been around for years, but it's more recently been introduced into conversations at the professional level. Implementing mindfulness in the meetings and events industry can prove beneficial not only for event professionals, but to the attendee experience as well.
Finding ways to mitigate mental and physical fatigue and its resulting consequences is especially pertinent for scenarios where we are in close, extended proximity with colleagues or clients. Consequently, a number of hotels and venues are developing initiatives and adopting techniques to support their clients, guests and their own employees in enhancing mindfulness in meetings and events.
To put the concept in perspective, think about how an athlete performs. Would your favorite sports star have scored the winning point if they hadn’t composed themselves, shut everything out and taken deep breaths before taking the final shot? It was no guarantee of performance, but it certainly helped. These actions exhibit the key tenets of mindfulness.
This isn’t just a clever buzzword. The concept has been used in psychology since 1979 according to Cinzia Pezzolesi, a chartered clinical psychologist and VP of the Centre for Mindful Eating in the UK. She has been supporting Hilton with their program, Meetings Simplified, which launched recently at Hilton London Tower Bridge. Pezzolesi describes it as a “pure awareness of what is going on inside your mind and body. Paying attention to the present moment, and avoiding worrying about past and future.”
The NHS website explains that “paying more attention to the present moment–to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you–can improve your mental well-being.” Professor Mark Williams elaborates, "It's about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives."
Mindfulness at Work
Applying the principles of mindfulness in a corporate environment can bring more than personal benefits. With practice, we make better decisions when we are more aware of our surroundings and can improve how we respond to pressure.
Anxiety can be alleviated by recalibrating and challenging predisposed actions. This recalibration can be achieved by something as simple as taking a deep breath and allowing yourself time to process your emotions.
During that thinking time, mindfulness will enable you to realize your physical reaction, whether it be tensing up, hunching shoulders or tilting the neck. Wait until you relinquish that physical reaction. Take those deep breaths. Sense your feet’s connection to the floor, and your body. Do this often enough and your mind and body will learn to automate it, and your time to react will shrink.
As a meeting and events professional, you may think you don't have the time to be mindful, but a pressured environment almost requires it. When you walk from one meeting room to another, focus your attention on your feet. Count steps, connecting with your body. Pause and breathe. Pay attention to sensation in your feet. Taking these moments will keep you grounded.
Encouraging Attendee Mindfulness
For delegates and meeting attendees, creating opportunities for mindfulness can be initiated by sympathetic managers with the shared objective of improving performance. Venues can support this by curating an environment to support mindfulness.
Encourage attendees to take a moment during the meeting to practice mindfulness. Incorporate brief meditations or moments for stretching and simple yoga. Also, plan ample breaks for attendees that include opportunities for mindfulness, such as providing coloring pages and colored pencils or, having designated phone free areas that allow attendees to truly unplug.
Catering for Mindfulness
Abandoning white tablecloths and bone china may seem a strange way to support this, but that is exactly what Hilton has done with their new Meetings Simplified package. In 50 of their properties, for meetings of up to 25, the whole array of food and drink is available with the aim of enabling guests to break when they feel like it.
Hydrating is critical, but tea and coffee are best in moderation as they can actually make you more unsettled. Water is best, and lots of it. Provide a variety of infused waters for attendees for a healthy, but delicious alternative.
Hilton also rotates what food is on offer in small batches to reduce wastage with environmentally friendly packaging (no more straws or plastic bottles) that improves sustainability.
Support mindfulness in your meetings and events and you can expect a more rewarding, sustainable and profitable outcome. From a personal perspective, opportunities to engage in mindfulness present themselves to you throughout your working day. Take them. No-one else is obliged to do so for you, and leading by example will inspire others to follow.