Every New Year, we resolve to adopt healthier habits, like exercising more or eating better. However, when we go to a conference, it’s tough to stick to our new habits. As an event planner, you can help attendees keep their resolutions by planning a healthy event experience.
#1: Select wellness-friendly venues.
When selecting hotels for your room block, make sure they provide a complimentary fitness room for guests. If they don’t, contract with a nearby gym. It won’t hurt your budget if you get a sponsor to provide sponsor-branded gym cards to attendees.
Set aside a space at the venue for a quiet room where attendees can enjoy a soothing atmosphere with comfortable seating, soft lighting, meditation cushions, spa-like music, and healthy refreshments.
Contract with a bike sharing or rental company to provide a rack of free bikes outside the venue for attendees to use—another sponsorship opportunity.
#2: Take a new approach to event swag.
Instead of cluttering up the registration tote bag with promotional items that end up in the trash, encourage sponsors and exhibitors to provide wellness-themed swag, for example:
- Sponsor-branded reusable water bottle
- Green tea, dark chocolate, nuts, or protein bar
- Frisbee, exercise band, jump rope, or walk/bike route map
- Coloring book or aromatherapy oil
- Lip balm, sunscreen, or hand sanitizer
- Sleeping mask or earplugs
Encourage attendees to use the pedometer for a step count competition. Award the winner(s) with a fitness tracker such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch.
Find a sponsor to provide free shipping for attendees who want to mail their swag and other materials home from the event. Each attendee can be limited to a standard size mailer box so expenses don’t get out of hand.
#3: Provide healthier menus.
According to an IACC report on nutrition and wellness trends, more planners and attendees are asking hotels and convention centers for healthier food. Don’t hesitate to ask your venues for more nutritious menu items, for example:
- Whole-grain options for the breakfast bar
- Grilled instead of fried entrées
- More leafy greens and vegetables of all colors
Although these healthier options may cost more, attendees appreciate and remember events where the healthy choice was the most tempting choice.
Avoid serving carbohydrates and sweets for desserts and breaks so you can help attendees stay alert instead of crashing in the afternoon. During breaks, serve:
- Veggies and fruit with yogurt-based dips, hummus, peanut butter, and guacamole
- Dark chocolate, nuts, granola, protein bars, and pickles
Limit the amount of soda and coffee you set out. Supplement standard options with a variety of juices, flavored waters, and green and herbal teas. Offer a smoothie bar during breaks in addition to the usual coffee set-up.
Consider hosting a food truck rodeo during a reception. Choose trucks with healthy menus. At social events, offer a few special non-alcoholic beverages beyond club soda and lime. Even attendees who normally opt for a glass of wine will enjoy sipping on a creative non-alcoholic mocktail instead.
Seek out local restaurants with healthy-looking menus as event app advertisers. Give each advertiser their own profile page with a link to their website and a description highlighting a few of their most popular and nutritious dishes. Encourage advertisers to offer a discount for attendees who show their badge.
#4: Make exercise part of the healthy event experience.
Consider relaxing the conference dress code so attendees can comfortably exercise throughout the day. Allow attendees to leave walking shoes and exercise clothes at the coat check.
Schedule yoga, exercise, or stretching classes in the mornings before sessions begin. Ask instructors to design classes that attendees can attend in business casual clothes without working up a sweat.
Sitting all day isn’t good for anyone. Come up with creative ways to get attendees off their backsides. Hold a post-lunch group stretch on the exhibit floor. Schedule walking conversations focused on specific topics for small groups of attendees. Give attendees the option of standing in the back of session rooms around cocktail or raised tables.
Use your event app to encourage attendees to fit exercise into their day. Provide a map showing walking, running, and biking routes that start at the venue and hotels. Include routes that take attendees to nearby destinations along with scenic loops.
Display a list of gyms, yoga studios, and other fitness facilities on the app. Each place that advertises on the app can have its own profile page with a description and link to their website. Encourage advertisers to provide discounts to attendees who show their badge.
Suggest recreational itineraries for attendees to pursue before and after the conference, for example, history walks, hikes, or other outdoor activities.
#5: Keep attendees hydrated.
Hydration is good for the body and the brain. Place water stations throughout the venue so attendees don’t have to buy overpriced water bottles. Even better, sell a water sponsorship. The sponsor provides a branded bottled water in the registration bag and pays for the water stations too.
During breaks, take a cue from spas and provide water flavored with cucumber, fruit, mint, or other herbs.
#6: Encourage a good night’s rest.
45 percent of Americans say a lack of sleep affects their daily activities. It’s probably worse for conference attendees. They try to fit too much into their schedule and don’t want to miss out on anything so sleep suffers.
How can you help? Don’t start so early in the morning. Give attendees time to get ready, check in with the office, work out, and eat breakfast. Remind them about the importance of sleep. End evening events early enough so they have time for one round with friends and can still get a good night’s rest.
Don’t send attendees home exhausted and sleep-deprived, feeling like they haven’t seen the sun in days and can no longer touch their toes. Instead, send them home with memories of a healthy event experience that leaves them feeling refreshed, energized, and eager to come back for the next one.