As more companies have recognized that employee well-being can impact increased productivity and reduced operating costs, planners are seeking ways to harness the same benefits and outcomes from employee meeting experiences.
They’re also incorporating wellness activities into offsite meetings, which offers an excellent way to amplify and complement their in-house corporate wellness initiatives. When many people hear the term “wellness activities,” their thoughts turn to lessons in nutrition and fitness. Of course, meetings aren’t exactly the appropriate venue for teaching attendees how to make protein smoothies or master a yoga sun salute. But there are many wellness-focused activities and engagements that meeting planners can easily incorporate into just about any type of meeting agenda—ones that hit all the right buttons of being simple to execute, achievable and fun for the participants and, most important, easy on the meeting budget.
Throughout my career as CEO of a corporate well-being and incentive consulting firm, I’ve tried out a number of wellness activities at events and made a point of keeping track of those that I felt had the greatest impact. Here are five of my favorite wellness-focused go-to’s for boosting attendee engagement, productivity and retention:
Build in Tech Breaks
Consider adding a couple of additional short breaks to the agenda to allow attendees time to check messages and emails without cutting into meals or networking time. Your stakeholders may object at first, but once you explain how this will help make for a more productive meeting, they’ll soon be on board.
As Larry Rosen and Adam Gazzaley explain in their book, The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World, distractions and interruptions, often technology-related, collide with our goal-setting abilities. But they add that there are practical strategies, backed by science, to fight distraction that don’t ask us to give up our devices, just use them in a more balanced way. One of these is simply to plan our accessibility to our devices. Hence, taking those additional short breaks.
There’s an added benefit as well: It makes your company look good. You will be perceived as a sponsor that understands and empathizes with the attendees’ needs simply by offering them a couple of tech breaks. With minds cleared of distraction and feelings/needs validated, your attendees will be able to better come back to the meeting ready to focus on the important stuff.
This one is easy and inexpensive, but very effective. Cary Caster, aromatherapist expert and founder of 21Drops, has taught me, essential oils not only help improve job performance, but also health. Citrus scents, specifically lemon, promote concentration and have calming and clarifying properties that help alleviate anxiety, fatigue and even anger. To help disperse a scent throughout a meeting room, you need only a diffuser or two and a supply of essential oils. The diffusers can be used again and again, while the essential oils go a long way since it takes just a few drops each time.
Back in school, your teacher may have looked down on doodlers believing they were completely distracted from the task at hand. But science has proven that when people doodle, they actually retain more of the information they hear. Knowing that, I like to hand out doodle cards for attendees to use throughout presentations.
Along with leaving room for personal doodles, I let the cards do double duty by pre-printing mind-shaping bubble thoughts with phrases that, for example, describe the corporate culture or emphasize the meeting message. The cards not only give attendees “permission” to doodle, they become a clever and pressure-free way to emphasize important information.
science has proven that when people doodle, they actually retain more of the information they hear.
Don’t Forget to Stretch
People who sit for long periods tend to intuitively stretch at perceived breaks in the action, so I like to take advantage of that by turning those moments into group well-being opportunities. The internet is full of great stretch suggestions that can be put up on the screen or demonstrated in fun ways by a meeting leader. Be sure to keep them simple and achievable and engage the crowd by reminding them in lighthearted language how stretches are beneficial to body and mind.
Color Their World
Dark, dull surroundings can be a real downer at meetings. While you can’t paint the walls in the conference rooms, you can introduce spots of invigorating color on room signage, banners, decorations, presentation slides and even handout materials. Yellow is perfect for this since it’s the color of optimism, brightness and a cheery attitude. You can even pair your citrus essential oil with an uplifting yellow.
You might also ask presenters to wear an item of clothing that picks up on your color theme. And be sure and speak to your venue contact to see if coordinating colored table linens and other décor items might be available. Add yellow flowers to the tables and you’re good to go.
As you plan future meetings and conferences, consider how adding a dose of well-planned well-being activities can help to not only enhance your attendees’ experience and focus during the events, but also impact the retention of the presented information—not to mention rekindle energy and enthusiasm for their work—once they’re back in the office.