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Successful Meetings: Room to Think: Better Meeting-Space Design Harnesses Attendee Brain Power

New ideas in meeting-space design at hotels are helping planners harness the brain power of attendees

MGM GRAND BETS ON WELLNESS MEETINGS

In 2012, MGM Grand started a partnership with wellness real estate developer Delos, working together to create the first-ever health and wellness rooms in the industry. They started small, with 42 rooms on the 14th floor. The demand for these rooms was great, and earlier this year, the program was expanded to the entire 14th floor, encompassing 171 rooms and suites. Additionally, MGM Grand created the Premier Stay Well Lounge off the main lobby, a separate and less stressful check-in area.

The Stay Well experience was expanded in August to include the conference center of 10 meeting rooms and two boardrooms, encompassing 22,000 square feet of space. “Attendees will be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle while traveling and experience meetings like none other with concepts that will enhance the way that work is conducted,” says Mike Dominguez, senior vice president of corporate sales for MGM Resorts International. “This environment leads to creativity and mental acuity. If you are going to be taking the time, money, and resources to move people and bring them together, it’s important to make it as productive as possible.”

The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) Foundation had a strategic planning meeting in the space at the end of September. The group of 20, which consisted of executives from top hotel companies and marketing agencies, stayed in Stay Well Rooms and the meeting was held in a Stay Well boardroom. “The mood, as well as the lighting, the scent, and the food, was all about getting the thinking right and it got it right for us,” says Fran Brasseux, executive vice president of HSMAI and executive director of the HSMAI Foundation. “This was an intense, strategic planning session and everyone stayed on task. Everyone really felt energized when we left the meeting.”

CENTER YOUR ATTENDEES

Effective meeting space stimulates thinking. Getting centered is crucial. “When I conduct meetings I always start with a short meditation,” says bestselling author and world-renowned speaker Deepak Chopra, MD. “It helps attendees get centered on the purpose of the meeting; to gain insight into what the intended outcome of the meeting is. What can each person contribute? Just starting with that intention will make the meeting much more powerful.” An expert in the field of mind-body healing, Chopra’s medical training is in internal medicine and endocrinology. “Meditation helps you stay centered and calm and opens you to your highest potential for creativity and success,” Chopra explains.

He points to a study conducted by the Kyoto Convention Bureau about meditation and meetings. It found that when people meditated for at least 10 minutes before a meeting, they were much better at focusing, listening, retaining information, and completing tasks.

Meditation is the progressive quieting of thoughts, aiming to eventually clear one’s mind completely. It doesn’t have to be complicated or “New Agey,” according to Chopra. It can be as simple as having all the attendees close their eyes and focus on their breath for a minute or two before the meeting begins.

Chopra has helped Delos and MGM Resorts International to launch Stay Well Meetings, touted as the world’s first-ever wellness meetings experience. In addition to built-in wellness amenities, Stay Well Meetings offers Wellness Moment Programming, which consists of guided meditations led by Chopra, as well as a selection of short mental and physical activities designed to engage the mind. They include building towers with magnets, playing a version of tic-tac-toe, and doodling with color pens.

SERVE BRAIN-FRIENDLY FOOD

Food is an excellent tool to help produce brain-friendly meetings.The right selections can help attendees focus, stay on task, and energized throughout the day.

Andrea Sullivan, president of BrainStrength Systems, suggests minimizing white flours and sugars at breakfast, which wreak havoc on blood-glucose levels throughout the day. Instead, provide complex carbohydrates, and low-fat and foods, with plenty of protein options.

Lunch should be light. If meeting objectives require alertness and clear thinking, stimulate the brain with a high-protein/low-carb balance. During the afternoon break, serve fruit and some protein to counteract brain drain and mental fatigue. Have lots of water stations easily accessible throughout the day, as hydration is essential for a healthy brain.

Smell is the strongest of our senses and the most effective in optimizing one’s brain. The olfactory bulb is part of the brain’s limbic system, connected to learning. With this in mind, Sally Augustin, Ph.D., a practicing environmental psychologist and principal of Design With Science, recommends serving food with lemon in it. “You want your people at the top of their game cognitively, and lemon is universally applicable,” Augustin says. “Vigorous scientific research shows that people do better at cognitive tasks when the scent of lemon is inhaled. It can be present in the food you serve or in the hard candy you have on each table.”

Source: Successful Meetings