Mind, Body and Events

June 28, 2018

Health and wellness is a $4 trillion industry and growing. The “healthy eating and nutrition” and “fitness and mind-body” segments alone accounted for $1.19 trillion in 2015, with “workplace wellness” adding another $43 billion, which is why it’s no surprise that events are including the latest health and wellness trends in their planning.

According to the IRF Wellness in Meetings and Incentive Travel Study by Incentive Research Foundation in 2017, the top five health and wellness inclusions (many of which are budget-friendly) are: 

  • Smoke-free property
  • Free access to fitness facility
  • Frequent breaks to encourage activity
  • Casual dress to encourage activity
  • Venues within walking distance to hotel

The study added that many event planners also work mindfulness breaks, free fitness activities such as hiking or yoga, or creative and artistic experiences into their events. 

Digestive Disease Week makes a point of only selecting non-smoking venues when planning locations. 

“The venues we use are smoke-free,” said Alison Moser, DDW director of marketing. “But I also think that’s a trend most convention centers have moved to.”

Betsy Jacoby-Greenleaf, owner of Jacoby Expo, says as people are becoming more in tune with their bodies by implementing health and wellness practices into their daily routines, they’re looking to continue those activities while on the road for business events. 

“Provide your attendees with an activity that enriches both mind and body,” Jacoby-Greenleaf suggested. 

She continued, “Hold a yoga session in a serene outdoor space or tranquil room; hire a local wildlife ranger to take attendees on a nature-themed hike to show off local foliage and habitats, or hire a personal trainer to show attendees some exercises they can use while on the go.”  

AFFI-CON, hosted by the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), offers massage stations to help revitalize attendees during the event. 

“Because it’s a business focused show, a massage station reinvigorates attendees between their meetings and helps keep their heads clear,” explained Brynn Hadley, vice president of conferences at AFFI.

Krista Friedman, events division director at CE GROUP, says that one area where the value of holding wellness activities comes through is in networking.

“Providing an environment that is conducive to physical activities enhances team building, especially by encouraging them to socialize with those who have similar interests in particular activities,” she explained.  

Besides venues and activities, health trends loom large in food and beverage selections. Many planners are working to meet the needs of those with allergies and special dietary issues as well as honor cultural and religious food requests.

Beth Lawrence, president and CEO of Beth Lawrence LLC, believes event trends follow preferences for everyday decisions that individuals are already making for themselves.

“Overall, in the past five years, I’ve seen an overwhelming trend requiring that restaurants, caterers and venues provide at least gluten-free and vegan options,” Lawrence said. “In addition, desserts and sweets tend to be less popular than years ago, with many multiple-course luncheons omitting it altogether.” 

Jennifer Lithgow, owner of Party Food Melbourne, which provides specialty event catering services, says their offerings have definitely evolved over the years. 

“We expanded our menu range to include more vegetarian and vegan options, more allergen-suitable menu items and options for custom cakes that are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free or vegan,” Lithgow said. 

She added, “We also offer healthier snacks such a muesli or granola bars.”

DDW’s breakfast and lunch sessions and receptions always include vegetarian options and a variety of food items for those who have dietary restrictions and/or prefer a healthier option. 

“We also moved to the café concept onsite to expand the variety of food and offer more healthy food choices for our attendees and exhibitors while keeping the cost of food lower than if they left the building,” Moser added.

As healthy food options have been trending in recent years, beverage selections have also been changing.

Lisé Puckorius, CEO at the OLC Education & Conference Center, a conference and training venue in Rosemont, IL notes that many attendees crave healthy alternative beverages such as soy and almond milk, fruit-infused waters and green or herbal teas.

She also encourages planners to infuse their menus with local flavor. 

“Especially when attendees come from out of town, planners can keep things healthy and interesting by sourcing local ingredients and using farm-to-table concepts,” Puckorius said.

Whether planners want to implement simple, budget-friendly options such as smoke-free venues or fitness center access, overhaul their menus or add interesting wellness-focused activities, experts suggest talking to their attendees to find out which options they prefer.

“We listen to what attendees want through surveys and then use the results to build programs and activities that people will love,” Friedman said. 

She continued, “The best way to incorporate wellness trends is to enlist local health and wellness organizations to provide activities, create an overall theme that can encompass the umbrella of the project and stay consistent throughout.” 

As our society continues to move in a more health-conscious direction, event planners, suppliers and venues are all embracing health and wellness trends – trends that don’t appear to be going away any time soon. As the health and wellness industry grows, a huge opportunity exists for planners to enhance attendee experiences by working with vendors to implement current and emerging trends that appeal to their specific audiences. 


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