5 Ideas for More-Mindful Meetings

We talked to three forward-thinking event planners about how to build mindfulness programming into meetings.

Illustration by Irene Rinaldi.
Illustration by Irene Rinaldi.

This month’s cover story explores how the meetings and events industry — along with many Fortune 100 companies — is embracing mindfulness. Here are some simple approaches to more-mindful meetings:

1. Be curious“Don’t be afraid of doing something different,”’s Julie Liegl said. “Mindfulness can be beneficial for anyone interested and open to positively investing in their wellbeing. Because the concept of mindfulness is abstract and fluid, we focused on having a range of speakers at Dreamforce ’15 who could bring in different perspectives that anyone could learn from, regardless of audience background or experience.”

2. Be braveJanet Sperstad, CMP, director of the Meeting and Event Management Degree Program at Madison Area Technical College, is encouraged by how the meetings industry is beginning to embrace mindfulness. “People actually talk about mindfulness and it’s not an uncomfortable discussion,” she said. “I hear it talked about more and more. The conversation is advancing in our industry, and people are taking some risks.”

3. Close their eyes“Engage in actual mindfulness practice during the session, rather than just talking about it,” said Eric Forbis, co-founder of the Mindful Leadership Summit. “Be sure to get speakers and presenters who are very grounded in mindfulness, and who have had a serious mindfulness or contemplative practice for quite some time.”

4. Build in brain breaks“Our brain is a battery — it needs time to refuel. Insights and meaning happen when the brain’s quiet,” Sperstad said. “We don’t want our attendees to sleep, we want them to dream. Shift away from an agenda of packed session slots with short, 10- to 15-minute breaks. Even stacked TED-like talks are still just pipelines of information. It’s not about the talking time, but more about the non-conscious thinking time that fosters more and deeper insights.”

5. Indulge the sensesTo foster engagement — not only in sessions devoted to mindfulness, but in talks on just about any topic — you have to create the best possible learning conditions for your attendees. “The human spirit is the senses,” Sperstad said. “It’s bringing awareness, depending on where that person is. Whether they’re stressed, they’re hungry, they’re tired, or they’re distracted. They could still be mindful and still have all those things happening, but it will be a much shorter focus and a much shorter timeframe.”

Kate Mulcrone

Kate Mulcrone is digital editor of Convene.