Meetings & Your Brain

Are Circadian Lighting And Aromatherapy The Future of Meetings?

Deepak Chopra thinks so. A visit to MGM Grand Hotel & Resort's Stay Well Meetings experience.

stay_well_roomAttendees at MPI’s World Education Congress in Minneapolis this week have much to take in: Workshops and master classes on engagement, technology and creativity; a string of inspirational speakers; a career fair; even a designated “puppy cuddling” area. One of the biggest twists so far, though, came during yesterday’s keynote speech from physician and bestselling author Deepak Chopra.

After telling listeners “Think of your body as a verb, not a noun,” Chopra announced an effort that he has consulted on: the MGM Grand Hotel & Resort’s Stay Well Meetings “experience,” a block of meeting rooms that draw on aromatherapy, circadian lighting and healthy (and sometimes color-coordinated) foods to engage and invigorate attendees. That a figure as esteemed as Chopra would use his stage time to announce a hotel chain’s meeting initiative was slightly surreal.

“We’ve been thinking about sustainability [in buildings] so long that we sometimes forgot about humans,” explained Michael Dominguez, the senior vice president of corporate sales at MGM Resorts and the outgoing chairman of the board of directors for MPI, the next morning. “It’s an essential part of the whole CSR platform.”

Two years ago, the MGM Grand rolled out a block of Stay Well guest rooms with purified air, vitamin-C-infused shower water, non-toxic surfaces, and light therapy; demand built so swiftly that the hotel converted an entire floor to the Stay Well model — and a year ago, began planning to introduce those same principles into meeting spaces.

The chain collaborated with Delos Living, a real estate company that builds ‘Wellness’ homes  — and counts physicians such as Chopra among its partners — to bring together ergonomic furniture, aromatherapy, air purification, periodic “brain teasers,” infused drinking waters, and even UV-cleaning-wands that “neutralize” microbes to create “healthy environments for high-performance meetings.”

The spaces also draw on changing light — chromatherapy — to energize or relax attendees, according to Paul Scialla, Delos’ founder, who wakes himself up each morning with cool lighting panels in lieu of coffee. “Light is medicine. The right use of blue light can boost cortisol and reduce melatonin, and increase mental acuity.”

Dominguez hinted that while the cost of a Stay Well meeting experience might come with a “premium on the room,” it’s not significantly higher than a conventional meeting. After Chopra’s speech yesterday — during which the author lambasted the harmful effects of stale air — a few planners reached out to Dominguez to find out more. “I think it’s going to take off quite quickly,” he said. The company’s belief in the concept must be strong: MGM is already planning to add Stay Well meeting rooms to a few more of its 19 properties, even before the first ones are ready for business.

Corin Hirsch

Corin Hirsch is a writer who specializes in food and drink.