Add Some Wellness to Your Conference by Getting Attendees Up and Moving

February 2, 2013

Kristen Roget

Kristen Roget, CMP, Senior Meeting & Event Manager at Experient


In a previous blog post, I shared how I helped my clients at the American College Health Association incorporate wellness into their events by providing healthier food options.

While that was a great start, we wanted to take the wellness program even further. A little creativity was in order, but when it was all said and done, the end results turned out to be more successful than we imagined.

After the menus were adjusted, the second part of wellness was to get people up and moving. Of course, we didn’t want to take away time from all the sessions, as education was the focus of the conference. We decided to start the day with wellness and provide additional opportunities at key times throughout the day.

In the mornings, we focused on calming exercise classes. For example, we did tai chi on the River Walk in San Antonio and water aerobics in the spa pools in Orlando and Phoenix, which attendees loved.

When planning activities for your events, be sure to take a good look at the space you have available and the weather your destination offers. Also, start times can be tricky, as you don’t want to start the classes too early, but you also need to leave enough time for participants to shower and get dressed before the conference day begins.

During the lunch hour, we offered several other classes. Knowing that our attendees were dressed for the conference, these classes required only moderate amounts of movement but were still fun and informative. We had classes focused on full body stretching and chair stretching, as well as classes that taught our attendees nutrition, such as the power of raw foods and energy balance. But the highlight of the day was definitely ACHA’s walking program called Fit in 15!.

Held during the morning and afternoon break times, Fit in 15! utilized several of Leslie Sansone’s Walk at Home DVDs to get attendees up and moving, and it couldn’t be simpler! All it required was a TV/DVD combo, an unused meeting room or tucked away foyer, and an energetic staff member to lead the group.

Often described as “meditation in motion,” tai chi is a graceful form of exercise that promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements.

At the end of the day, we kicked up the energy level and offered fun dance classes like Salsa and Zumba. We made sure to prep the instructors and let them know that this was a conference and our attendees may not have had the chance to put on their exercise clothes.

However, most of our participants were unfazed and simply kicked off their shoes, joined in the fun, and worked up a light sweat. It really helped that ACHA is a higher education organization, which allowed us to look to local schools for instructors and support. If that isn’t an option for your events, try contacting a neighboring gym that offers classes, or see if the hotel spa may be able to help. It’s amazing how excited and involved instructors can get!

Here are some helpful tips for classes that require physical activity: 

• Wellness rooms should be able to handle up to 50 people with plenty of room to stretch out and move around.

• Use creative spaces in the facility, especially for early morning classes. Gardens, pools, golf course grounds, beaches, and outdoor decks are great locations.

• Full-sized towels from housekeeping can be used as exercise mats. For sweat towels, keep a stack of hand towels by the entrance and get a small laundry bin to collect dirty towels.

• Be sure to have a water station in the room with plenty of cups.

• Leave several chairs in the corner in case participants need to rest.

• Don’t forget to advertise your classes as a pre-event teaser and definitely put them in the program. Be sure to include a short description, especially for uncommon exercises or class topics.

ACHA has included wellness in their program for five years now and it has a steady following. Some of the attendees have formed a special bond that didn’t come from sitting next to each other in an education session. In fact, ACHA even has attendees asking to lead classes for the following year! Talk about a way to build membership loyalty!

What wellness initiatives will you bring to your events this year? Post a comment and tell us about it.

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