Meetings professionals often believe that educational sessions, training and creative brainstorming meetings need to be held inside, in a calm and quiet room where the participants can focus on the topic at hand. But research suggests quite the opposite.
At first, you might think, “If we hold that important planning meeting outside, all the attendees will be distracted.” Research has shown that learning in an unexpected environment triggers the release of dopamine to the hippocampus, the part of the brain that creates memories. By holding a meeting in an outdoor setting, you can help improve the ability of participants to retain what they learn.
Distractions can actually stimulate creativity. If a person is busily trying to work on a complex problem, a break provides the incubation period necessary for the mind to come up with possible solutions, according to Harvard researcher Dr. Shelley Carson. So if you’re planning a meeting, then you might want to consider moving the setting outdoors, or at least for a portion of the meeting. For instance, you might hold morning sessions focused on discussing and defining a challenge, then move outside for meditation and brainstorming sessions, before heading back inside to share possible solutions.
While outside, add a little exercise or quiet time. Exercise can trigger dopamine and help improve brainpower, relaxation recharges the brain, and fresh air can speed up that process. Rather than the standard coffee and cookies break, you could prepare your attendees to tackle their afternoon sessions by sending them outside for a short walk or bike ride, followed by fresh fruit smoothies.
Trapping ourselves indoors has created what health experts call a "nature deficit disorder," depression or anxiety resulting from too little time spent outside. Getting outdoors can do great things for our health. Reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and improving immune function are among nature’s health benefits. What's more, incorporating elements of nature into meetings can also give our brain a boost, resulting in increased productivity, focus and creativity.