Meetings take their toll. Stress, anxiety, inactivity, poor nutrition and stale air will at best kill your meeting productivity, at worst it could help shorten your life span. So how can you keep your meetings and your delegates healthy?
One key area where meeting organisers can make a difference is providing nutritious food and drink. This has the benefit of not only encouraging healthier eating by your staff but you can also make an immediate difference by boosting energy levels through considering menu choices.
But it’s not just food that can be handled differently. Many aspects of meeting and conference programmes can be easily adapted to encourage healthier practices, sharpen concentration, improve energy levels and better still, they can save you money.
Take transport, for example. How long do your delegates sit in coaches waiting for transfers between hotels, conference venues and restaurants? Better planning can allow you to choose your key venues within a reasonable walking distance of each other.
You can even turn these strolls into part of your programme by using local guides to point out places of natural or historical interest en route. Delegates often moan that they never get to see the destinations outside the conference hall or the banquet room. This is the perfect solution.
Special transport can always be arranged for those who may have health or mobility issues that prevent them from enjoying these simple walks.
Get to know the conference venue and find out if there are open-air terraces or balconies where coffee breaks can be taken, weather permitting. This will clear the lungs of the air-conditioned, recycled vapours that your delegates have been breathing in for hours and give them a chance to clear their heads; simple and productive.
Ironically, these days it’s often smokers, banned from smoking indoors, who seek out every nook and cranny of fresh air for their furtive puffs. Aside from the health issues, huddled groups of smokers can be very disruptive of broader group dynamics, so find some alternatives; for example, have some corporate-branded squeezeballs available to keep fidgety smokers off the nicotine and deal with the stress.
Massage and fitness
An increasingly popular addition to conference programmes is to include some massage or spa element to fill the break times. This might be a simple foot-rub by a reflexologist or a head and neck massage from a therapist. Stress and tension don’t just affect health, they make delegates lose focus and deliver less than their best. Fit a stress-buster element into your conference agenda.
Choosing the right hotel as a venue or simply for accommodation can make a huge difference. Speak to the food and beverage director to ensure you have healthy menus, but speak to the fitness centre manager too.
Perhaps you could start the day with a light warm-up led by the fitness centre team, or give vouchers to your delegates to use in the gym or even set up a reward system for those who make the most visits during the conference period.
There are other ways to encourage delegate vitality by bringing in some local flavour. Why not include a fun tai chi break in your Hong Kong conference programme, or a short yoga session for your corporate meeting in Mumbai? You can encourage delegates to dress down for particular sessions, wear loose-fitting clothes that ease circulation and that they can comfortably move about in. This also helps to create a more relaxed atmosphere.
It’s also worth remembering the toll that international travel can take on delegates arriving from different climates and time zones. Ensure that they have enough time to unwind, especially if they are one of the keynote speakers.
This is an edited version of a previous MIX story which was published under the headline, Hearts & Minds