This Prevue editor’s previously well-hidden fitness fanatic came out in style while participating in last week’s Caesars Entertainment Wellness Challenge. Here are some thoughts on what worked best for this participant, plus some ideas on how to ensure that participants will never see you sweat when you put on your next wellness challenge, be it virtual or on-site.
OK, I admit that I’m just a wee bit competitive. I blame long, dismal days camping with my sisters with nothing to do but listen to rain pounding the canvas and play Uno death matches. So while I thought I’d just join in on Caesars Entertainment’s Global Wellness Challenge on June 9–10 for fun and to see how it works, in reality, I wanted to win — big time. Not necessarily for the prizes, though they were pretty substantial: stays at Caesars Entertainment properties in Las Vegas, Reno and Atlantic City, along with spa treatments, dinners and other perks. But for me, it was all about my inner 10-year-old competitive crazy girl raring to beat the competition, even if I have no idea who they may be. That may just be a me thing.
So I signed up — then promptly forgot about it until mid-afternoon of the first day, a Friday. I quickly opened up my Heka Health app, where the wellness challenge was being held in partnership with Caesars Entertainment. I sighed with relief when I saw that my usual pre-work dog walk and other assorted regular activities already had me on the leaderboard once I synched it with my Fitbit (it also synched with a variety of other health trackers, such as the Apple Watch and Garmin, as well as the health apps on Apple iPhones and Android phones).
But oh no, I was really far down on the leaderboard…who were these frontrunners who had already completed the equivalent of a marathon plus a 10K run before quitting time on a Friday? Oh, right, it’s a global wellness challenge, which means that time zones were definitely in play. OK, I said to myself when 5 p.m. Eastern Time rolled around, work is done for the weekend and I am coming for you, Soul Slayer — game on!
I took a few pre- and post-prandial strolls Friday evening and got my step count up to a pretty respectable 25,000-plus, which is high for me but not too far off my usual. I felt pretty good sitting at #10 when I went to bed.
But at 7 am on Saturday, I had slid all the way to 30th — say what? So I started hiking, and hiking, and mowing the lawn, and then going for another hike…happy to see that my knee that had undergone surgery for a torn meniscus last summer and still is tweaky was hanging in there. Went to the biggest grocery store around just to get in more steps moving from the dairy to the veggies in that big warehouse environment. Oh yeah, it was crazy time here at the Pelletier household.
Remember that cartoon that was making the rounds early in the pandemic, the one that showed a dog hiding on top of the kitchen cabinets to escape all the suddenly eager dog-walkers in the house? My one-and-a-half-year-old Australian shepherd Bandit is always up for whatever I want to do, but even she was starting to resemble that cartoon by late Saturday afternoon, so I gave her a break from long hikes in the woods and did a few online Zumba classes to get my step count up.
And it was working! I got up to third place, then remembered there were some challenges I could do to earn non-step points, which I needed by then because, well, I was going way beyond my personal best already. I got 1,000 points for doing a quick in-app yoga video session included in the app, another 1,000 for expressing my gratitude for a few things in the in-app gratitude journal, and a couple thousand more chatting with my fellow masochists on the chat module and learning more about the Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Foundation. That got me up to second, and I was several thousand points ahead of #3. Another walk and I felt pretty solid in my #2 slot (I was never going to catch #1, who since Friday apparently ran another marathon or two — how did they do that?!). Number 3 looked to be done for the day, having not updated in many hours.
Ah, I can relax. I settled down with a book and put my feet up, Bandit snoring by my side. Around 10:30 p.m. ET, I did one last check before hitting the rack and saw that #3 was on the move again — I’d have to walk at least another 45 minutes to catch them.
I was so far gone at that point that I actually thought about it, but my body said, “uh, no. Just no.” Even my Fitbit was looking a bit tired, though I did earn a couple of new badges on that one I hadn’t even known existed, having gone well over 40,000 steps in a single day, which until this past weekend I did not think was even a possibility for this old gal.
I’m not sure where I ended up — the wellness challenge ended at 3 a.m. my time and the leaderboard was closed by the time I checked in the morning, but I feel pretty good about my showing. And a tad appalled at just how competitive I can be!
The numbers now are in, and it looks pretty impressive from where I’m sitting. According to a follow-up email from Caesars Entertainment, the wellness challenge participants put in more than 5.5 million points (mostly steps, plus the bonuses). That’s about the equivalent of walking from LA to New York City — about 2,887 miles! Eighty-nine of my fellow foot-sore-stompers made it to at least 25,000 steps over the two-day challenge, with another 13 going at least 15,000 steps, and 183 getting in at least 7,500 steps. And it looks like I wasn’t the only one who took advantage of the bonus points, albeit belatedly: Close to 500 participated in the chat, 204 took the yoga challenge, 272 wrote in the gratitude journal, and 115 learned more about donating to the MPI Foundation.
The grand prize winner happens to be the person I was vying with for second place on the leaderboard, the fabulous Thuy (2E), who it turns out hails from CWT Meetings & Events. Well-played, Thuy (2E)! The 25,000+ points prize went to NnekaSMFM from the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, while Cayman from ConferenceDirect got the 15,000+ prize. Another 20 participants scored the 7,500+ points prize of a tote bag filled with Caesars-branded goodies.
Congratulations to all!
When I caught up with Reina Herschdorfer, Director of Marketing, National Meetings and Events with Caesars Entertainment, to see how she thinks it went, she said, “With Global Wellness Day on Saturday June 10th and all the wellness initiatives Caesars Entertainment offers it’s team members, we were inspired to organize this event for planners and the industry. We shared the event on so many of our own channels besides the industry’s. We had great participation and could see how much everyone was having fun with this on the chat in the app. We are already planning on doing this next year and are looking at how we can enhance this as wellness plays such an important role in our wellbeing.“
For anyone putting one of these on at a conference, trade show or just for their office staff, a few tips I gleaned from the Caesars Entertainment challenge:
- Don’t just reward the highest physical performers. It was pretty disheartening to see that I could never beat the top few when I first logged in on the first day, and I’ve seen that happen a few times at on-site wellness show challenges too. I know it’s about wellness, but there’s more to it than just sheer mileage, and Caesars inclusion of those other ways to earn points was a big morale booster. And also that the prizes, while they were awarded based on points earned, were going to be drawn in four tiers, with the top prize going to the winner of a drawing among the top 10, and the second, third and fourth levels of prizes going to those who win drawings within different threshold limits. That’s fair, and motivates you to keep trying even if you know you aren’t going to win, or even be in one of the top tiers.I’ve seen wellness challenges at shows go even further, giving people points for other non-step wellness participation. For example, the American Thoracic Society’s 2022 ATS conference’s wellness challenge offered points for learning relaxation techniques and listening to a short meditation audio clip through the app. And they could get a points booster by visiting the challenge sponsor’s booth. Other thoughts could be do include hydration into the challenge, and somehow include getting a good night’s sleep, which is rare as hen’s teeth for most of us when on site. And wellness challenges are the perfect opportunity to include some sort of gaming element (beyond the fitness challenge, that is).
- Know your potential participants — and your own goals and objectives, especially if you can make them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound). The latter is pretty easy with wellness challenges, but it can be difficult to know what will best resonate with your potential participants. If you’ve done it before, then at least you have some data to work with on what was and was not popular with the last challenge. If not, talk with your potential participants to see what will get their competitive juices flowing in a fitness direction.If teamwork is on your agenda, it also can be fun to create teams to work out together while working toward a common fitness goal. A friend of mine in HR told me they figured this out midway through a months-long challenge, when people with a job that entailed basically walking the physical plant all day were so outpacing the desk jockeys that the latter started getting demotivated. Putting the high achievers in with some of us more regular folks can help even the playing field while also encouraging teamwork.
- Communicate — a lot. Caesars Entertainment did a great job of getting the word out, and then communicating just enough to keep it top of mind without becoming a nuisance in our in-boxes. In fact, it was a reminder from Caesars Entertainment that jogged me into, well, jogging on Friday afternoon after work had taken over pretty much every usable crevice in my cranium. They also let industry media know about it, and several picked up the story ahead of time. And of course they socialized the heck out of it on all their social channels to reach people where they digitally live nowadays.For on-site challenges, I’d keep a leaderboard updating somewhere people can’t help but see it, both to keep participants’ motivations up and to possibly persuade others to join. If you also include non-step ways to earn points, I’d include those milestones on the leaderboard as well. And, of course, make a big deal out of rewarding winners, and all participants, at the close of the contest.
- Make sure your wellness app is compatible with common fitness wearables, which Caesars Entertainment and Heka Health did a great job of. You could do self-report, and I know some do, but that’s kind of asking for trouble, especially if the prizes are really appealing and your potential participants are as crazy competitive as I am.
- Offer incentives. Caesars being Caesars, they had some awesome prizes to dangle. But it doesn’t have to be that big. Most of us will go nuts to earn a t-shirt just for the bragging rights, but if you have a sponsor or two or five who want to get in on it, I’m sure they can come up with some prizes your participants will find shin-splint-worthy.
- This wasn’t relevant for an online challenge like Caesars Entertainment just did, but if you’re doing something on site at a show, you can enhance a sense of place by incorporating local information, sites and activities, maybe even making it a little scavenger-huntish by letting people earn points by checking off local sites on a walking route near, or even within, the meeting venue.
Have you held a successful fitness challenge at your show or workplace? Share your success strategies by emailing me at email@example.com.