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Exploring IMEX America's Show Themes: Wellness Q&A with Lee Papa

Kaitlyn Tatulli |

Woman sitting on a yoga mat meditating
IMEX America has released its show themes for the upcoming exhibition in September 2019, which allow attendees to explore more deeply a particularly important industry trend. This year, the annual session talking points will center on four themes: imagination, experiential, CSR and sustainability, event tech, and wellness.

We sat down with speaker, author of Live Mindful Lee, and mindfulness trainer, Lee Papa of Lee Papaa LLC  to learn more about IMEX America's "Be Well" theme and about Lee's sessions: Crystal Cave of Rejuvenation Meditation; Guided Relaxation: Snowflake Valley; Guided Relaxation: The Healing Tree; Guided Relaxation: The Waterfall Experience; Introduction to Mindfulness and Guided Relaxation; Journey on a Cloud Meditation; or Nourish Yourself by the River Meditation.

Check out the Q&A with Lee to learn what this IMEX theme means for you.

IMEX America Be Well Q&A with Lee Papa

Lee Papa of Lee Papaa LLC

Q: Can you tell our audience a little about yourself? About your experience with mindfulness and in the events industry?

You could say Wellness and Well-being are in my blood. My mother was a big believer in holistic approaches to wellness. I grew up with Apple Cider Vinegar, no sugar cereals or soda and herbal supplements and remedies. I didn’t realize at the time what a gift she gave me. But as I got older, I understood the power of the wellness foundation she instilled in me.

Then after a profound near-death-experience in 2008, I had a shift in the trajectory of my life. I became acutely aware of my life’s purpose to help support those who are suffering or seeking relief from stress emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. That lead me to open a small wellness center in Las Vegas in 2009. It quickly grew to 6,000 square feet which included event space, a café, practitioner rooms, and classroom. In the 6 years that it was open, we provided over 4,000 classes and tens of thousands engaged in the services. It was an extraordinary time for empirical data gathering to support my clients and students in reaching their ultimate goals of well-being. I was then able to incorporate these processes into digestible and accessible program(s) beyond the brick and mortar of a center.

My inner knowing gave me the nudge that I was ready for the next expanded level of reach. A way to provide this information globally of how to take full responsibility for one’s health and well-being, mind-body-soul. I was open for the next chapter.

And then it happened. I remember sitting at my desk when I received a call from Erika Welling (now General Manager, PRA Las Vegas). Erika was referred to me as a Wellness Expert and she was supporting IMEX in the search for someone to speak on the topic at the upcoming 2014 IMEX America. I eagerly accepted. That started my admiration, respect, and friendship for Erika, Dale Hudson, the entire IMEX team and such appreciation for all meetings and events professionals.

The day I spent on the exhibit room floor in 2014, taking it all in, was when I remembered how much I loved this industry. I started my career, in what felt like a lifetime ago, with Hyatt Hotel in Sales. And then it occurred to me. This industry wears stress like a badge of honor. And I could help them understand that it is not a necessary requirement to get the job done. I got excited where it could go with the mind-shift in consciousness in an industry with such reach. I thought, “help Meeting Planners and organizers with their own personal shift and then they become the advocates of this information” and a healthy mind-set will spread like wildfire. This is how we change the world! One attendee at a time. I soon closed my center, developed my keynote: How to Live & Lead Mindfully and the experiential offering Mindfulness Lounge™ and got busy.

Lee Papa's Mindfulness Lounge

In 2015, MPI hired me for the IMEX America Smart Monday Keynote and the Mindfulness Lounge™ program was born for the IMEX Be Well Lounge concept. I cannot say enough about the vision and heart that Dale Hudson exemplifies with her commitment to well-being for the attendee experience. IMEX is such a forward-thinking organization and Dale’s vision for incorporating well-being and the commitment to these programs over time has allowed it to grow significant roots. It is one thing to have a vision but to also understand that the dedication to initiatives is also an ingredient to their success. The Be Well Lounge has changed lives! I continue to receive testimonials from attendees who began their mindfulness practice right there at the Be Well Lounge with me many years ago. I received this email note just this week from an attendee that began his practice in 2015 and continues attending IMEX each year:

"Also I feel blessed that this edition of IMEX you and the wellness lounge are part of the industry event, you have an advocate in me and what you do for all of us is a needed disruption of unhealthy practices both in business and private life. Thank you for helping us help others and grow in the process. “ Paco Nunez, Spain & Portugal Cititravel DMC  

Stress is not a badge of honor. Nor is it a requirement to get the job done!

Q: Why do you think mindfulness is important for people in the meeting and events industry? 

Well, a mindfulness practice for everyone is important if you desire to lead a life with more ease and grace, less conflict and with more peace, joy and well-being. But why I love supporting the meetings and events industry so much is because we have an opportunity to change lives here on a grand scale. Not only those in the industry, but many lives from all walks of life and industries, by just shifting a little attention to self-care.

Mindfulness in its simplest form means Awareness. Awareness of thoughts, actions and the world around you with non-judgment. My trainings take it a bit farther. “Mindfulness That Goes Far Beyond The Mind”. Helping attendees understand what mindfulness practice really means in their lives (personally and professionally) and how to shift from the old, virus mind-program of feeding the stress like a hungry animal, which has taken over the internal hard-drive of one's being, to that which is a thriving, humming, optimal program. No longer seeking a work-life balance but rather allowing for an integration of one’s life fully immersed in the power of mindfulness practice.

The individual benefits of mindfulness practice are so far-reaching that it almost sounds like the holy grail of well-being practices. That is the case because the ripple effect permeates every aspect of your life. Here are just a few.

benefits of mindfulness practice list

Now, let’s think about what kind of impact that would have in a meeting or event. Science has proven that incorporating mindfulness and meditation into the curriculum supports the individual to retain information at a higher rate. Often, educational meetings are jammed packed with sessions and information that no ordinary person could possibly retain. Adding a Mindfulness Lounge™ offers short respites to basically download what has been provided thus far from the educational sessions and prepares the attendee for the next one. Additionally, the mindfulness education and experiential process provides a long-lasting powerful impact for the attendee and the takeaway is life-changing.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the different sessions you are hosting? 

Absolutely! Meditation eludes many because they think that they cannot “shut off the mind chatter”. I call that the monkey-mind. First off, meditation is not something to be achieved or conquered. It is the anthesis of that. It is the surrender. Through my guided relaxation, visualization, and meditative journeys, I guide the individual to let go of any resistance. Just allow the process of whatever it is going to be. Not resisting the mind. Guided meditations are what helped me with my own practice when I began meditating many years ago. But I wanted more. I wanted a journey. Each meditation that I offer is carefully created and orchestrated with the individual and purpose in mind. Maybe it is healing with crystals in the ancient Crystal Cave or understanding the power of your thoughts and words through the Snowflake Valley or understanding how worries and burdens are an illusion of the mind with Journey on a Cloud. They all start out with the same relaxation exercise so that this becomes an instant and subconscious program that allows you to “drop-into” your meditation faster with practice.

I love all the guided journeys. Each one is individually powerful. Even if you attend two or more of the same meditation journeys, I will guarantee that you will not have the same experience. I think it is the Universes way of teaching us to not be attached to the outcome.

Now, the Introduction to Mindfulness and Guided Relaxation is important to attend because that provides an additional 10 minutes of training prior to the experiential part of the session which is typically a trip to the Waterfall. So, I suppose if you could only attend one, that would be the one to do. However, listen to your inner guidance. This is YOUR experience. Tap into your body, your inner knowing. Which one feels right to you? That’s the one you should attend. But don’t be surprised if after that experience, you find a way to attend more.


Q:Can you give our audience your top 3 tips of how to stay mindful in a technology-driven industry? On the flip side, can planners use technology during their meetings or events to help their attendees stay mindful?

Keeping it to 3 will be challenging…LOL.

    1. Give yourself permission to come first. Your health and well-being fuel your longevity, your optimal life experience, and your ultimate success.
    2. Meditate every day! Consistency is the key here. Choose the time that works best for you and start a practice. Even if it is just the 6-minute free Waterfall Chakra Wash app on InsightTimer every morning. Make sure it is every day.
    3. Be grateful and celebrate the small successes of your practice.

With respect to a Mindfulness and Meditation practice, I am a big fan of technology. Case in point with the app recommendation above. However, we must be mindfully aware that we are using technology to support us rather than technology owning us or being a crutch. Tools for meditation or self-development are an extraordinary resource but they should be used until we do not need them. Ultimately, we are in self-exploration, understanding the inner workings of our subconscious and deliberately directing our sovereign expression of ourselves instead of allowing old unhealthy programs to be subconsciously running the show. We must allow the mind and body to be quiet regularly to be able to listen.


Looking for the top-rated things to do and see while in Vegas? Check out our guide to the top four things to do at IMEX America and the top seven things to do in and around Las Vegas.

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This Post was Written by Kaitlyn Tatulli

Kaitlyn Tatulli is a graduate from Fairfield University with majors in Digital Journalism and Psychology and minors in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Computer Science. Currently, she is receiving her MFA from Fairfield University. Kaitlyn...

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