Lesley Bacon, our award winning Group Health Club and Spa Manager gives us her top tips on one of the industry’s latest buzz-words.
There are a number of different definitions available to describe wellness, one I like in particular (source unknown) is; ‘wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence’. Striving to improve our own wellness across mind, body and soul should be, in my opinion, at the top of all of our priorities in such a fast paced world. And as someone who organises events for my own team members, I feel a duty and privilege to care for the wellness of the delegates I have in front of me too.
How people feel when they leave an event is arguably a good test of how successful it was. If both delegates and organisers end the day feeling ‘well’ - and by that I mean nourished and hydrated, with a sense of accomplishment and personal fulfilment and not thoroughly exhausted on a caffeine/sugar come-down - then I think it would be safe to assume it had been a success!
You can bet that the line-up of the day, the food they ate, the amount of fresh air and physical movement they had, the types of social interactions and how they were made to feel during the event will have played a large part in maintaining this sense of well-being from start to finish.
When delegates leave an event feeling all these amazing things, they stand a high chance of going on to put absorbed information into action. So, while the content of your event is important, the way you deliver the message and stager the day to induce feelings of wellness should definitely be considered as high priority.
6 ways to bring wellness to your event
First things first, give the meeting room some TLC. Wherever possible I like to make sure that my delegates are facing a window or have an outside view in their line of sight, this helps eyes to navigate away from screen time throughout the day, exercise long and short vision and absorb natural light. I’ll almost always open a window to vent the room, regardless of the weather, because a dusty room is stifling and fresh air brings renewed oxygen. I love spaces that have outside access onto a terrace or lawn area, and I will often choose a room on this criteria. In the colder months, opening windows and doors isn’t always practical but instead I bring along an essential oil spritz or natural diffuser with a zesty uplifting scent as well as a Himalayan salt lamp to purify and refresh the air. Lastly, with all this mention of opening doors and windows, it is really important to monitor the temperature throughout the day. Too hot and people will feel drowsy, too cold and no one will be able to concentrate – bear in mind that the temperature always needs to be adjusted throughout the day as temperatures change.
Set up a warm, welcoming atmosphere at the start of the day when people are arriving – even better, conduct a short mindfulness, breathing or energising exercise before the event schedule kicks off, you’ll find inspiration for these in spades online. We’ve all been there, the day you have somewhere to be and your car won’t start, you can’t find the venue – or maybe just the thought of meeting new people and potentially having to speak in front of a group has your delegates on the back foot before their day has even begun. Anxiety is a very common and completely natural human response that causes us to feel worried, tense and afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future. I find that taking steps to bring the group into the present moment, feeling content and relaxed just gets everyone off to a positive start.
Encourage your group to get up and move around as much as possible during the event. If your venue has outdoor green space and the weather is kind then that’s a huge bonus too. If not, indoor movement is fine! It doesn’t have to be particularly intense - why not ask everyone to take the stairs instead of the lift? Plan a little activity with the venue such as a treasure hunt to get people up and active around the meeting room and breakout areas. If you have the budget – however small - perhaps a teambuilding exercise is well worth the investment as a sure way to get your delegates moving, shaking off any lingering feelings of stress AND socially engaging with each other – a beginner’s yoga or stretching session has worked well for me in the past.
Consider the types of food and drink you provide for your delegates as well as how and when it is served. A venue that serves locally sourced and seasonal produce is likely to serve up high quality, balanced yet tasty food. Rather than going all out on a superfood spread there’s something to be said for giving your group a variety of foods to eat at lunchtime, so let them decide if they want the side of chips or not. Easy access to water all day is a must to keep minds and bodies hydrated. Create a clearly defined lunch break that allows minds to switch off from high levels of concentration and unwind, enjoy food, chat or simply embrace some quiet time. Another mindfulness exercise after lunch is a nice way to bring the group back together again before the afternoon begins. Personally I’m in the habit of opting for herbal teas, such as lemon and ginger or peppermint during breaks, instead of the habitual choice of tea and coffee. Not only do herbal teas aid hydration, they also avoid the dreaded caffeine headaches.
Aside from a dedicated lunch break, I highly recommend factoring in a number of additional pauses throughout an event to break up tasks/sessions. Your venue can schedule tea/coffee breaks which work well - snacks are also good - but simply giving your group a 10 minute pause so they can leave the room, use the bathroom, stretch their legs or check in with family will help to keep them focused when tasks are in full swing. Trying to cram too much into an event will not make this easy, and breaks are the first thing to suffer when the agenda is unachievable. Where possible, I look at 24- or 32- hour packages instead of the standard 8-hour day events. More time leads to less rushing, more pausing and therefore higher engagement during activities and sessions. It’s a win, win, no?
As your event comes to a close, embrace those feelings of accomplishment and take some dedicated time to reward yourself. As the organiser, this could mean staying over an extra night at the venue to unwind and do any post-event work or if there are health club and spa facilities onsite then take some time to re-energise and relax there. Alternatively, it could just be a bubble bath and room service! After my group has left I like to go for a short jog or a swim, followed by a steam and sauna or if I really deserve it, I’ll book a massage. After that, I’m ready to sit down and wrap up any follow up work – which always feels very painful to return to if I leave it until the next day!
As for your delegates, you can reward them too with an evening celebration after their meeting – private dining or post-event networking drinks perhaps – or something low key like a film screening if your venue has a private cinema, or something that always goes down well with my team is simply letting everybody leave before rush hour. It’s important to stop and take stock and your delegates will thank you for it whilst giving them more scope to take in the day’s activity.
For further information on mindfulness visit bemindful.co.uk or for any mental health advice/support, in or out of the workplace, visit mind.org.uk.