Many meeting professionals are paying more attention to this area. They recognize that a little exercise is not only healthy for attendees, but also keeps them awake by oxygenating the brain as well as muscles.
Planners shared their best ideas for healthy meetings in the Stellar Tips section of ConventionPlanit.com.
Scott Ludwigsen with Phoenix Marketing International suggests scheduling a walk around the hotel/conference center into meeting breaks. “For those attendees that actually take the walk, reward them by handing out tickets at the far end of the building,” he says.
“Prior to the next health break, draw a ticket for a prize and you will see the number of walkers increase dramatically during each subsequent break. Net effect: people come back from their breaks ready to listen, look, and learn!”
Another exercise incentive suggested by Al Rickard of Association Vision is to have a quick scavenger hunt during breaks that forces people to walk around a certain area.
“Put attendees in teams of three or four so they can meet new people in the process,” he explains. “Give away some small prizes for completing it. Then set up a table with prizes displayed for those who complete the hunt and a big sign that says “Free Prizes.” Prizes can be small gift certificates for local shops, local trinkets, hotel certificates for a free massage at the spa, or a free breakfast.
Alicia Dahill with Oliver Wyman offers this idea for squeezing exercise into meetings: “Hire the hotel’s fitness trainer to come in for the first five minutes of your morning and afternoon break to provide attendees quick stretches and movement with the focus on things attendees can do in their own office. This will help attendees feel more energized and awake during the meeting, and they will appreciate your efforts to incorporate fitness into the meeting.”
Use your imagination to go beyond walking and stretching. For example, the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) & The Center for Association Leadership placed stationary bikes in the main gathering area during its Annual Meeting in San Diego two years ago. Rickard also suggests making large exercise balls available.
Meeting attendees, presenters, exhibitors, meeting staff, and others also spend a lot of time standing or walking, especially at large meetings with trade shows.
Eleanor with Symantec Corporation recommends having acupressure foot masseuses on hand.
“Even 10-minute sessions can relieve feet tired of walking long distances to get to and from different meeting rooms, not to mention presenters who stand for hours doing their sessions,” she says. “Foot massages are also good to boost energy.”
There are also other novel approaches to staying healthier by relieving both the physical and mental stress of meetings. Sybil L. Simons with Group Travel Advisors recommends a program called “jokesercise.”
She explains, “’High-Powered Howard,’ a comedian and personal trainer, offers half an hour of exercise punctuated with comedy. Attendees will love it! My groups do.”
Of course, providing healthy alternatives to meeting attendees extends beyond what they can do with their bodies to what they can put in their bodies.
“Keep your attendees hydrated and energized by providing a variety of unique soft drinks such as pomegranate-flavored soda, green apple iced tea, peach iced tea… something different in addition to water and coffee to add an unexpected gourmet twist to your meeting refreshments,” recommends Sharon Naylor with Sharon Naylor Wedding Books.
Kathleen Zwart with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida offers a tip with a double benefit — better health and a cost savings. “For an all-day meeting with lunch and an afternoon break, I hold back the dessert from the luncheon and serve it during the afternoon break,” she says.
“Your attendees aren’t tempted with two sweets in a short timeframe and you save money by not ordering a separate item for the break. You can include something non-sweet also, like fruit, nuts, or popcorn.”
For more advice that can help you in all areas of meeting planning, visit the Stellar Tips section of ConventionPlanit.com.