Employees (and attendees) aren’t robots. They need more than the occasional reboot. Companies are starting to understand the value of corporate wellness programs both in employee health and recruiting, and event planners are following suit.
But exactly what are you doing about the wellbeing of attendees at your events?
Are you lost in the options?
It’s not as difficult as it seems but it does require a completely different ethos for some. In this article, you’ll learn the four main areas in which you can have the most wellness impact through food, breaks and sessions, setting, and event culture. As an added bonus, we’ll cover some pitfalls that can sabotage your success when trying to incorporate wellness into the fabric of your event.
Never Forget: Corporate Wellness Extends to Your Event Strategy Too
A corporate wellness program is more than just a few healthy activities or a smoking cessation program. For the company that adopts it, it becomes a way of life and a commitment to the health and well-being of its employees. A successful corporate wellness program permeates every aspect of the company—including its events.
If you have a corporate wellness program you’d like to see flavor your events, or if you just want to add more wellness options to improve attendance, there are some areas you’ll need to rework.
And that may mean implementing some major changes in:
Brain Food That Makes an Impression
Take a scroll through Instagram and you’ll no doubt see lots of delicious looking food. A colorful, healthy menu can not only boost the health-consciousness of your event, but also make it buzz worthy. Here are some areas you can fine-tune to excite your participants.
Give Up the Bad Foods to Eliminate Fatigue
Embracing corporate wellness as part of your event means saying goodbye to sugar bombs like donuts and empty carbs like bagels. When you do, you’ll have fewer dozers and more awake and aware participants. You’ll also have more attendees who feel good about their choices and don’t spend the meeting thinking about how they shouldn’t have eaten that croissant.
Healthy Options and Creative Menus That Won’t Leave You Missing the Junk
Today’s caterers and chefs know that healthy food doesn’t skip on flavor. In season, farm-to-table options can be very enticing. But you needn’t give up comfort food. Creative chefs can work with you to find lower fat and sodium versions of your favorites, like mashed cauliflower and sweet potato air fries.
Many event planners are finding that creative pairings and inventive menus can make people feel like they are on a culinary adventure, not missing out on sugary baked goods.
Staying on the Wagon and Minimizing Temptation
Tempting foods sabotage your wellness strategy in three ways:
- The obvious health ramifications to serving food that’s not good for your participants (and the sugar crashes that come from them)
- The participant’s guilt associated with eating those foods
- The overwhelming desire to eat those things even for the participants who say “no”
The main danger in all of these comes down to distraction. Unhealthy food distracts from your wellness message. For those who succumb to temptation, they feel distracted by what they’ve done. Even those who say “no” may be thinking about that cupcake well after lunch has ended.
Sticking to healthy foods will also help you solidify your wellness message but it does take commitment. You can’t serve a healthy breakfast touting then host a food truck rally with a cheese fry eating competition for lunch. You must be consistent in your efforts and partner with a caterer or a chef who can help you.
It’s important to not only make delicious dishes but also present them in inventive and enticing ways. Serve up beautiful arrangements and artful ways that entice the eyes and the mouth. For instance, a smoothie bar where your attendees create their own healthy concoctions can be a lot of fun and inspire greater participation than just serving up a fruit plate.
“Healthy snacks and nutritious food is the future for events—people care more and more about what they put in their body,” says German Villatoro, executive chef at Convene. “Give them something unique and intriguing, like squash blossom with Kabocha squash hummus.”
Healthy food doesn’t have to skip on flavor.
Accommodating Your Crowd to Satisfy Their Food Needs
Event planners have their work cut out for them these days. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies have risen 50% from 1997-2011. Not only are allergies on the rise but intolerances are too. Many people are switching to specialized diets to cure ailments or lose weight.
Gone are the days where event planners serve one plate and expect guests to find something they like on it. Instead, event planners are making considerable accommodations for dietary restrictions to ensure their guests are satisfied and well-provided for. This is no longer a luxury, but a participant expectation.
Liven Up Breaks and Sessions for Greater Energy and Engagement
As most holistic practitioners will tell you, you must care for mind and body.
Unfortunately, sitting in sessions all day can wreak havoc on the body. Get participants moving in creative ways like:
- Tai chi
- Walking meetings or sessions
- Chair exercises (this may work if you don’t have a very mobile group)
The mind is also an important part of keeping participants engaged. In order to do this you can host:
- Mindful sessions with targeted results (like meditation or goal setting).
- Deep breathing or nap sessions. According to WebMD, a nap can boost memory, cognitive skills, creativity, and your energy level.
- Introvert activities. Most introverts blanch when you talk about “group activities.” That sort of planned, forced interaction will leave them feeling drained. Instead, create respites where they can go undisturbed and recharge. This is essential to feeling productive and engaged. Some meetings use lounge areas, (electronic) recharging stations with natural lighting, or library-esque style quiet spaces.
Slow the Tempo for Better Event Outcomes
Breaks help minimize stress and maximize enjoyment in learning sessions. They are also an excellent time to help facilitate connections between attendees. Relationships can provide incentives for employees to stay at their jobs and it also makes them more productive when they feel part of a team.
When you pack too much into your event, participants can feel rushed and anxious. This will impede their ability to connect with one another and retain information, not to mention they will give little thought to wellness when they’re stressed. Modern event planners know that breaks are critical to a great event.
Another reason to give breaks is to allow attendees to check in with the office or with home. Not allowing these things can bring on more anxiety, not to mention an increased workload when they return.
Remember, not everyone wants to network during breaks—give space for quiet time.
Get Moving and Give Their Butts a Break
Feeding and resting the body are important wellness factors but it’s also important to keep people from sitting all day long. There’s some emerging evidence that too much sitting can be harmful to our health—with some researchers even comparing it to the dangers of smoking.
To counteract these dangers you could consider:
- Ergonomic workstations or lounges. One of the major dangers of sitting, besides the inactivity, is the posture most of us keep. If you provide ergonomic workstations that can help attendees maintain good posture and they’ll feel better. Lounges are also an alternative to rigid seating.
- Seating alternatives like standing desks or bar tops can leave people feeling more energized and are better for the circulatory system.
- Off-hours extras. If your event or meeting is multi-day, consider accommodations with gyms and other exercise options.
Food, activities, and avoiding hours of sitting are all great ways to embrace wellness. But none of these will work in the long run without a culture that supports it.
Get those participants moving!
Become a Culture That Supports Wellness and More People Will Embrace It
Wellness is not easy. We’re addicted to our caffeine-laden, frothy beverages. We’re often running on empty and see sugar as a way to make it through the morning. But if you want to embrace a culture of wellness at your next event, you need to do more than just talk about “good choices.”
First, you need to lead by example. Attendees don’t want to see the meeting planner scarfing down a bagel as they chomp on fruit salad. This is easy enough because if you support wellness activities, you’re probably willing to lead them.
You also need to get management on board. While encouraging healthy eating among executives may not be overly difficult, you might struggle when it comes to the rest and recharge type activities. However, if management is always running at full-throttle, you can bet that employees and attendees will mimic that behavior.
Lead by Example to Boost Buy-in and Make it Fun
If management attends your event, you need to get them on board ahead of time, communicating your expectations. This is easier if you make wellness activities fun. Select enjoyable activities and frame them as such. Don’t make wellness drudgery. It’s much easier to “sell” fun than it is to convince people to do things because they should.
Finally, in order to keep management on your side, you’ll want to report your successes and evaluate the attendee experience. You can do that through exit surveys, data on participation, “listening” on social media and the internal communication systems, and watching their body language.
It’s also a good idea to record their feelings about wellness before your event, if possible. This can be done with a one question survey on an event app or even a simple email. This will give you (and management) an idea of where your participants are in their wellness journey. It’s important data because it will ultimately color how they feel about a wellness initiative at your event or meeting.
Avoid These Pitfalls to Wellness for Event Success
In order to be successful in your endeavors, you should avoid these common mishaps:
- Sending mixed messages such as saying one thing and doing another or expecting attendees to comply while leadership doesn’t
- Misaligning your event program with your company culture
- Making the wellness activities difficult, not enjoyable, or forced
- Being too heavy-handed about compliance and participation
In order to transfer the benefits of a wellness program to your events, you’ll want to concentrate on four major areas: food, breaks and sessions, setting, and event culture. Without clear alignment in these areas, your event wellness efforts will appear disjointed and thus be ineffective.
Remember fun is a key element to your success. When done right, you won’t just be improving the healthy choices available to attendees, you’ll attract more of them as well.