Meditation in One of the Most Unexpected Places – Corporate Events

Jesse Israel, the founder of The Big Quiet, recently chatted with the meeting and event space gurus at Convene about mass meditation in one of the most unexpected places – corporate events. That’s a lot coming from a guy who has hosted these large-scale meditative moments at some of the world’s most iconic – and busiest – places. We’re talking Madison Square Garden, One World Trade, and most recently, SXSW.

Event organizers’ new secret weapon.

Jesse has already led meditations for large companies like Adidas and Marriott, and now he is on a mission to show that large group meditation is accessible for all corporate events, not to mention the benefits for event planners and attendees alike.

He told Convene, “Meditation can also be really energizing. It can be perfect right in that droopy slot where people are getting burnt out on the programming. It gives a nice reset and reboots focus.” He also shared that “people are also better at listening to whoever is speaking next. That’s a great added bonus.”

But you may have to win them over first.

Of course, there will be skeptics. Is it too weird? What if it makes people uncomfortable? Good thing a pro like Jesse knows how to make mass meditation an inclusive and relaxing environment.

“My response is to offer meditation in a way that meets the attendees and staff at the level that they’re at,” he said. “The great thing about meditation is that it puts everyone on the same level. It allows folks to drop their concerns and equalize. If it’s presented in an inclusive way, it’s a win-win all around.”

Click here to learn more about Jesse Israel.

To read about the complete benefits of meditation at corporate events, check out the full article.


Candid Conversations: Amanda Slavin

With a degree in education and a love for community-building, Amanda Slavin uses her knowledge and experiences for unconventional educational opportunities. As the curator of the founder of CatalystCreativ and Life is Beautiful Festival's IDEAS Series, Amanda knows how to cultivate learning experiences that both excite and inform through engaging speakers. As a speaker herself, Amanda understands the importance of sharing new ideas and engaging with audiences beyond her onstage appearances.

OA: What are you Outspoken about?

AS: I am outspoken about quite a few things! Mainly, I am outspoken about the fact that the advertising industry is shifting, and companies need to embrace and understand true engagement to connect with today’s consumer in an authentic way.  When it comes to internal shifts within the work place, I am outspoken about how work places and culture need to embrace femininity in order to thrive. 

OA: How has your recent work transformed the focus of your content when delivering a speech?

AS: I have always given talks about millennial trends and how that is impacting advertising, but it is much deeper than that regarding today’s consumer, in which we have segmented into millennials and the millennial minded (those who share similar values but are not the same age demographic as millennials).

The more work we do with brands, and test out the methodology of engagement I created during my Masters Year, the more we (at my company CatalystCreativ) see it truly working, and the more I want to share that knowledge with the world.  Since CatalystCreativ focuses on internal and external transformation in companies, I also have become more passionate about speaking about the importance of a feminine workplace and how by embracing femininity, work places can shift to be a space of vulnerability, creativity, and connection to develop more engaging experiences for employees and consumers.   

OA: How do speaking events help your growth?

AS: I have a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, and as a teacher, I absolutely love speaking to audiences.  It helps shape me because it allows for me to develop relationships with people I may not meet otherwise.  It also allows me to learn from audience members and what interests colleagues/potential clients based on their reactions and feedback.

OA: What would you like to see happen more often at events to engage with the audience?

AS: I would really love to see more openness around interactive talks and workshops.  My company CatalystCreativ has created a proprietary internal brand workshop called the Brand Acupuncturist Workshop.  This dives deep with brands to identify “pain points” and come up with solutions that optimize teams and develop creative campaigns, and these workshops provide opportunities for audience members to connect deeply with the facilitator, rather than sitting there passively.

OA: What has been one of the most fulfilling audience experiences at a speaking event and why?

AS: I absolutely loved speaking at The BizBash Event Conference about the work CatalystCreativ has done in regards to impactful experience and millennial trends, the audience was extremely engaged and so many people came up to me after and told me how much they learned from the presentation. 

OA: How can people become more involved with your work, whether that’s CatalystCreativ or your personal interests?

AS: CatalystCreativ has so much to offer when it comes to unique value propositions.  We would love to explore how to work with more brands starting with our internal service offerings and parlaying those offerings into external creative activations.  In terms of my personal interests, I absolutely love to write and facilitate workshops, moderate panels, and participate in conferences even in smaller ways than keynotes, as it allows for me to meet new people and share new ideas.

OA: If you could hear someone give a speech alive or dead, who would it be and why?

AS: Lin-Manuel Miranda.  After seeing him in Hamilton, and reading about him and his story, I am blown away by what he has been able to build for himself, his family, and how he has gone from a teacher in a classroom, to a teacher to the world. 

Rave Reviews: Deesha Dyer at RendezvousSouth

"Deesha was fantastic!  The crowd was super engaged and there were so many questions after her talk that we had to cut several people off due to time constraints.  Many attendees stayed afterwards to greet and thank her personally.  My staff also fell in love with her!”

- ConventionSouth Media Group - February 2017

Taboo Talks: Why we still need to push for diversity in storytelling

When we challenged some of our speakers to tackle this, it became overwhelmingly apparent that this topic can still be so far beyond taboo if not presented with a full explanation and context that it required us to check ourselves and rethink the conversation as a whole. Diversity in speaker programming is STILL a problem in 2017, but some cannot seem to make movement with changing this. This is not a topic to create inclusiveness if it just becomes tokenism, but rather reiterating the recurrence that public intellectuals, specifically in the speaking industry, are not chosen based on their merits and their performances alone. If they were, there would be more diversity inherently in every event program and those labeled as a minority would be paid comparably for their expertise and work.

When you run through a schedule at a large conference or event, you'll most likely find a program that has a roster comprised mostly of white, male speakers, some of whom can be easily identifiable by name, but cannot relate to the audience as a whole. If the audience cannot see their problems, their hopes, their hard work, or themselves representative within the programming that was provided to them year after year, why would we expect them to return in the future? The continued need for diversity is the need to swallow a pill of do better. Because those people are already around you and their voices are still not represented.

It is hard to talk about diversifying things involving race or class or gender or sexual orientation or religion or anything else if we don't understand it. So who is better to talk about it and encourage it and work through it than those experiencing it? Please read below with an open mind from some of our speakers who share how we can combat this issue together.

Deesha Dyer {Former Special Assistant to the President and White House Social Secretary, Obama Administration; Creative Event & Strategy Expert}:

"Being a black woman, I learned early the value of bringing in collective voices when implementing an idea or planning an event, because often it was my gender and race that were excluded from important conversations. When I became the Social Secretary for President and Mrs. Obama, I set out to always make sure we had them around the table when building the foundation of any program or event. It’s more than smart business, it’s just the right and natural thing to do. When we were thinking up the event for the final Obama Pride reception in June 2016, I worked closely with the President’s LGBTQ liaison on every step. But sadly as a society overall, we just aren’t there yet. Diversity has become a trend. The problem is that trends come and go. We throw the word around but often companies and organizations don't want to do the real work that comes with diversifying their executive or senior level team. If the leadership of your organization or event does not reflect your audience, consumers or customers, you have a serious problem. Diversity for diversity’s sake is a wasted effort. So when you go in to thinking of how to diversify your company or project, check your ego at the door and be ready to share space at the table. It's necessary and also the humane thing to do."

Amelia Rose Earhart {Around-the-world Pilot and President of Fly with Amelia Foundation}:

"In STEM fields, standout females are still unicorns. The media glorifies our accomplishments like a Ripley's Believe It Or Not! tale or prodigy teenage doctor, Doogie Houser. We often spend more time talking about what it's like to be a woman in STEM than we do talking about our expertise, specialty or contribution to our field. When hiring a female speaker, don't require that gender be the first thing that the audience remembers. Let her surprise you with her human experience and story. When choosing a speaker, try not to assume that the men you hire will inspire and educate everyone in the room, but the women will only inspire and educate the women, and maybe, possibly, on a rare chance a few of the open minded men. Try being a little more gender blind in programming. If your audience notes what they learned and how they felt at your event before they say, "the speaker was a woman," you've helped us all move a little closer toward being able to do our jobs and make your events memorable. Putting it in simple terms, when I fly an airplane, it doesn't know if a man or a woman is at the controls, but it absolutely knows the difference between a smooth touchdown and a crash landing. Let your audience remember the landing, rather than if their pilot was a man or a woman."

Luvvie Ajayi {New York Times Best-selling Author; Pop-Culture Critic}:

[Excerpted from an blog] "In the tech space and the conversation about all thinks geek and nerd and technology, Black women are MIA. We’re not included in it and it’s for multiple reasons. It’s because we don’t fit the mold of “tech” when folks think about it. It’s also because we don’t see ourselves as part of that community too. And what that means is that we’re left out of the growing field of startups and we’re not benefiting from any of the growth or the wealth that is coming from it. AND WE NEED TO BE."

We'd like to leave you with some parting words from Luvvie's book, I'm Judging You, because, well, we're judging you and we're here to help you create a well-rounded, diverse, merits-based choice and commitment to appropriately program your future events. Play some BINGO here at your next event or meeting in the meantime.

"If you have a microphone plugged into an amplifier, it is wrong for you not to sing. If you have been placed in a sphere of influence, I believe that it is wrong for you not to use it to better the world. If you do not feel like it is your duty to leave this place better than you found it, then you're taking everything around you for granted. Don't squander your social currency. Don't squander your wealth. And if some people stop supporting your work because you dared to do something about a shitty world, good riddance to bad things and assholes! Shirley Chisolm said 'Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.' Some of us are mad delinquent on this rent. We owe back pay, but that's okay. We just need to start now. We can start doing better any time we want."