With executive orders and restrictions across the country in a state of constant flux, not everyone is ready to jump back into meeting in person. While some planners are eager to get back to “normal,” the long-term adjustment to new meeting protocols and potential risks make some hesitant to gather.

While wearing masks and social distancing can help keep attendees safe, intentional design choices—such as including nature-inspired elements and materials and plenty of plants—can also help to calm attendees.

“Studies show that access or a view of nature, an experience of nature, lowers blood pressure and stress and improves mood and concentration,” says holistic interior designer Gala Magriñá, owner of Gala Magriñá Design in New York.

Magriñá cites two reasons why nature has these effects on people. One is called attention restoration theory, which is “the idea that natural settings give the brain a break from cognitively exhausting tasks.” For example, as professionals sit through an eight-hour conference, or go through a day’s worth of meetings, nature can help people’s brains from not getting too overwhelmed.

Magriñá continues: “Nature draws our attention, but it’s an effortless kind of engagement, which they call a soft fascination— and although you’re engaged by it [nature], it still allows the mind a kind of rest and reset.”

The second reason why nature can lower stress levels is related to the industrial development of the world. Magriñá explains: “We came from nature, we lived in nature, so our bodies relax in pleasant nature surroundings, because that’s where they evolved. Our senses are adapted to plants and trees and foliage, and not necessarily traffic and high rises. That’s from the 20th century, right?”

So, as worries about meeting in-person during the pandemic continue, nature (and nods to nature) may generally help ease stress and tension. As an event planner-turned-holistic interior designer, Magriñá has practical ideas on how to incorporate nature into events. Of course, bringing in plants is the most direct way to incorporate an element of nature. However, not all budgets, venues, or planners can do this. Instead, Magriñá suggests displaying imagery of nature at conferences and venues with LED and plasma screens. Playing sounds of nature, such as a babbling brook, can work as well. Finally, orienting floor plans to maximize exposure to windows can help connect people to natural surroundings.

With these tips, planners can reap the benefits of nature in order to ease attendees’ minds. Whether it’s during a global pandemic or not, having a little greenery around can’t hurt.

Meeting in an idyllic, natural setting doesn’t mean you have to give up a dynamic urban energy –at least not when you’re gathering in The Woodlands, a charming community located less than 30 miles from Houston and George Bush Intercontinental Airport. The town boasts a full social calendar, as well as all of the conveniences found in a more metropolitan locale. But it is shaded by acres of heritage trees, surrounded by neighborhood parks and centered around the sparkling waters of Lake Woodlands and The Woodlands Waterway. 

 

After about 15 months of Zoom happy hours and countless virtual meetings, events, and conferences, it’s clear that virtual gatherings don’t hold a candle to the magic that in-person gatherings can spark. People are excited for in-person events again.