How to Incorporate Wellness Into Your Event

If offering exercise classes isn't the right call for your meetings, consider providing DIY fitness and wellness options. Your health nuts will appreciate it.

A few years ago, Michelle Allgauer, CAE, vice president of meetings, marketing, & education at the Financial Services Institute, was tasked with creating a meeting for financial advisors by financial advisors. She quickly found out that this FSI constituency was struggling to maintain work-life balance.

So she created a “For Yourself” track at the new Financial Advisor Summit. In addition to offering an Enrichment Zone where attendees could get a headshot, shop for clothes, and book a one-on-one image consultation, “we started the day with morning workouts,” Allgauer said. “We had Zumba, boot camp, yoga, and body weight classes with an hour between the end of the workout and first session.”

It was such a success that the following year she partnered with conference wellness company X-Bytes to add a Wellness Zone, where attendees could fuel up on Kind bars and fresh fruit, participate in short sweat-free mind-and-body videos, and pick up wellness and fitness tip sheets.

Not every association will have a decent-sized portion of its membership clamoring for exercise and wellness options. But it’s a good bet that every association has at least a few members who like to stay active and eat well, even when they travel.

Here are three easy ways to help your wellness-focused members feel good—mentally and physically—while attending your conference.

1. Offer healthy meal options.

A vegetarian meal option has been standard for a while, and now vegan and gluten-free options are standard on the ever-increasing special requests list.

Kevin Jezewski, assistant director of food and beverage at SAVOR…Chicago, the caterer for McCormick Place, finds that the requests for healthier meals go up as a conference goes on.

“People want their guilty pleasures, which in Chicago is pizza and beef, but by day two and three, they want a more simple, clean menu in which they understand the ingredients,” Jezewski said. With its 2.5-acre rooftop garden and commitment to buying meats raised without antibiotics and other farm-to-fork picks, McCormick Place can easily meet requests for healthier fare.

2. Consider adding a meditation or mindfulness session to start the day.

You might not have the member interest or staff wherewithal to organize a walk or an hour-long fitness class, but what about a 15-minute meditation or mindfulness session? Not surprisingly, there’s an app for that. The benefits are multifaceted—from greater ability to focus on the day’s sessions to increased emotional intelligence during networking opportunities.

3. Create a one-pager with information on any nearby exercise trails, fitness studios, and bike share options.

Yes, your members could do this homework on their own, but think how happy they would be if you saved them the trouble.

For your runners and walkers, tout any dedicated paths, like the Chicago Lakefront Trail or Millennium Park/Grant Park. (If you have a room block at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, your members can take advantage of detailed maps of nearby jogging and walking paths.)

The Hyatt also has a two-lane indoor lap pool, and the recently opened Marriott Marquis Chicago has a separate yoga room in its fitness center, along with 12 treadmills, eight ellipticals, and weights.

Also, let attendees know if your host city has a bike share program, so they can choose pedal power over a cab to meet up with friends or colleagues. Chicago’s Divvy Bikes offers visitors a 24-hour pass for $9.95.

Finally, share any yoga, Pilates, and other fitness studio classes near your conference hotels. These types of studios generally make it easy for visitors to book a drop-in class online.

Whether to go all-in on providing wellness and fitness options at your meetings is an association-by-association decision. But providing healthful meal options and information on local exercise options is not hard to do—and your members who care will appreciate your efforts.

Chicago is at the top of its game when it comes to hosting meetings. The city can accommodate any size group, offering a range of options for each meeting facet. Each article in this eight-part, how-to series tackles a specific piece of the meeting planning puzzle as part of the ultimate meeting playbook.

(Handout photo)