I’m planning a conference in London later in the year (much more about that in due course). Given that I spend most of my life helping people stay healthy while they’re traveling, I want my event to reflect that. The last conference I attended was in the bowels of a huge property with room-less windows. We had soggy sandwiches in brown paper bags for lunch (the bags were delicious). Breakfast was cheap coffee, sugary muffins, and under ripe bananas. Thankfully we were on our own for dinner and had plenty of good options locally.
Being subjected to artificial light all day while being sustained by sugary foods has a profound effect on morale and energy levels. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are my tips for making conference experiences healthier, more comfortable and more productive.
- Make sure you have healthy dining options at every meal or break. The purpose is not to have delegates gnawing on granola for the sake of it, but to provide foods that will sustain and nourish them, meaning that mid-morning and afternoon energy slumps will be avoided. “Options” is the key word. Some folk will want their cookies and cakes. It’s about making sure that attendees aren’t obliged to eat one way.
- Book a room with windows. Many conference facilities are tucked away in basements and don’t have natural light. Being deprived of the opportunity to visually connect with the outdoors leads to low energy and morale. Even if artificial light is going to be used, having a room with a view of the outside world will make attendees more productive, less fatigued and more positive.
- Allow plenty of breaks. It’s unreasonable to expect delegates to sit for hours at a time and stay focused and attentive. Ninety minutes is the recommended maximum for continued input without a break. People need to get up and move around after sitting and listening for long periods so they can recharge and be ready to absorb information from the next session.
- Have stretch breaks. Sitting for several hours will lead to spinal compression and low energy. After coffee, tea, and lunch breaks, have someone lead 4 to 5 minutes of stretching so that attendees feel revitalized for the next session and more aware of their posture. Local yoga and Pilates studios will usually be glad to help out.
- Hydrate. Check what kind of water the property is prepared to offer during your event. Mineral water with its high electrolyte content is much better than tap or filtered water for cellular balance, energy levels and overall feelings of wellbeing. Make sure your contract with the venue includes an unlimited supply of mineral water.
- Offer opportunities for exercise. If delegates are staying overnight, make sure the property has a decent work out facility (or a nearby gym), swimming pool or safe jogging paths.
- Make sure the property is in a safe location, especially for female attendees. My pal Carolyn Pearson, founder of Maiden-voyage.com says it’s crucial to work with a female-friendly hotel so you can take the quality of accommodation and service for granted, leaving you free to focus on your program content and delegates.