One of the hot new topics for the modern meeting planner and event planner is how to build “wellness” into a conference. In fact, for more than one of our association management clients this is a strategic consideration for their upcoming events.
Meeting Planner or Event Planner = Wellness Planner
These days, conference delegates expect to have the ability to stay fit and eat well during their time away from home and that’s creating new challenges, and new opportunities for todays meeting planner and event planner. It used to be that conference breaks were scheduled to serve coffee and pastries in the morning and plates of cookies in the afternoon. With this high sugar, “low wellness” diet, combined with extended periods of sitting, too little exercise, and low interior air-quality delegates would leave a two or three-day conference feeling bloated and unhealthy.
Packed schedules, long days and unhealthy food options can cause energy levels to bottom out and that’s why the forward-thinking event planner and meeting planner need to be proactive when it comes to creating a healthy schedule, offering opportunities to be active and providing healthy food options.
Meeting Planner or Event Planner = Smart Scheduler
In order to maximize the “wellness” factor in a conference, keep in mind that one day of educational content should not be longer than a regular work day (eight hours), however this does not mean that an event planner should jam pack the eight hours with sessions and speakers. Instead, look at providing longer lunch hours to give delegates a chance to walk around, go back to their room for a quick nap, or even fit in a quick workout. A smart meeting planner recognizes that longer morning and afternoon breaks are also a key to increased “wellness” as they allow delegates to stretch out and possibly get some fresh air.
Selecting a Venue That Will Encourage Wellness
As an event planner or meeting planner, when you are doing your site visit, try to have your sessions, or breaks scheduled in rooms with natural light and if possible, access to exterior fresh air. Another trick is to look for venues with natural outdoor space that can be used during breaks.
Most hotels have fitness centres, but when you are signing an agreement with a hotel, make sure that your delegates will be given complimentary access to the fitness equipment, and that the centre will be open early enough for delegates to work out before your conference begins. A fitness centre with two treadmills and an elliptical trainer would not be enough for a conference of 300 active people. Familiarize yourself with their facilities.
Another detail to consider if your hotel has a spa, negotiate in your agreement a discount for your delegates to use this spa.
As well it is increasingly popular for an event planner or meeting planner to provide delegates with information on surrounding gyms, yoga studios or walking paths.
Fitness Can Equal Networking
If you can offer scheduled fitness opportunities within your program, these types of planned activities are not only great for delegate health, but will also give them another opportunity to network. Typically, these activities will attract a smaller group, and networking is easier in this type of setting. Offer a fun run in the morning before sessions begin, or after the day’s scheduled events. You could also offer mid-day yoga sessions, or set up a massage station which could also be used as a sponsorship opportunity. Note: Free massage stations will also make you the most popular event planner or meeting planner in the history of your association. Scheduling fitness doesn’t necessarily have to be in a typical workout setting. Encouraging delegates to do something other than sitting at a session would count as wellness. This can be done through guided walking tours of the neighbourhood, scavenger hunts, dancing, golf, putting contests, city bike tours, etc.
What’s on the Menu?
Your great “wellness” planning is the key to helping your delegates make the right food decisions. You can’t tell them what to eat, but you can certainly offer delegates the right options to keep their diet on track. It is important to offer fruit, vegetables and whole grains and make your protein options poultry, fish or lean meats. For health breaks, instead of serving plates of cookies, offer veggies with a healthy dip such as hummus, sliced fruit, or smoothies. Avoid serving high sugar or high carb foods as this may cause a mid-morning or afternoon crash. For more advice on selecting healthy food options for your meeting, have a look at the publication by the Western and Northern Canadian Collaborative for Healthy Living: Eat Smart. Meet Smart. Remember to always have water available for your delegates.
As a meeting planner or event planner, let delegates know of the amenities, or fitness opportunities that are available to them during the conference. This information can be printed in your conference program, listed on your website, or event app and can also be shared through social media during the conference. As you may have heard “sitting is the new smoking”. So get your delegates up and moving! Keeping them moving and eating healthy will improve their energy levels and in turn make for a more successful conference, and make you a more successful event planner or meeting planner.