The rise of activity-focused conferences: making meetings healthier in ten steps

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

Being healthy is becoming ever more pertinent as obesity levels rocket around the world and sedentary lifestyles become commonplace. While it may not be possible to stay active at a desk or computer, there are ways to introduce healthy elements into meetings.

The idea of healthy meetings has been gaining momentum for some years now - perhaps in light of the shocking figures that show world obesity to have almost doubled since 1980. Organisations, workplaces and even global governments have been putting literature together to encourage healthier lifestyles at work.

Take a look at our top tips for ensuring your meeting delegates have the opportunity to be healthy.

1) Location, location, location...

The venue you choose for your conference can impact on the opportunities for being healthy; look for somewhere where delegates can easily and safely go for a walk - either through a local urban area or perhaps around pedestrianised grounds.

2) Fitness facilities

If you're planning to hold your meeting in a hotel because delegates will need to stay overnight, look into the facilities on offer. A swimming pool or gym are useful if you'd like your meeting attendees to have the chance to let off some steam or keep up their regular exercise regime while away. It can also have the secondary benefit of a social element, allowing delegates to get chatting while they keep fit.

3) Keep it casual

When planning your meeting, give some thought to the dress code. You can encourage attendees to feel comfortable and ready to take part in activities if you choose a casual dress code rather than something formal.

4) Regular exercise

Exercise is important for keeping off excess fat, boosting energy levels and enhancing mood. The recommendation is that people should be active for at least half an hour a day, either in one go or broken up into regular bursts. To break up the monotony of a meeting, think about organising three bouts of activity during the day to keep delegates alert and healthy.

5) A tailored approach

While exercise is important for fitness and overall wellbeing, not all attendees at the meeting might have the same level of fitness or ability. When selecting activities for your delegates, look at low-impact exercises that can be modified to suit all abilities. Gentle stretching is one such activity that is suitable for most people and that can also be performed in a seated position.

6) Movement-focused icebreakers

Icebreakers can be useful for introducing delegates to one another and facilitating idea sharing, but to keep it healthy opt for a mixer with a focus on moving around, rather than something that will be entirely seated.

7) All mapped out

When delegates confirm their attendance at the meeting via your online registration system, set up an email to go out as a receipt that also contains interesting, health-focused details of the area you'll be holding the meeting in. Information could include maps of the local area along with landmarks marked out so they can explore on foot, or details of any walking trails in the vicinity.

8) Reward driven

To up the interest in being active at your meeting, consider giving participants rewards for their healthy approach. Give delegates forms to fill out showing their activities for the day and set a goal of at least 30 minutes per day, staging a rewards ceremony at the end of the meeting to present rewards to the most active attendees.

9) Break with tradition

Many meetings are held in a conference hall or meeting room where participants sit down; consider breaking with traditional by encouraging walk and talk sessions instead. While this may not be practical with hundreds of delegates at a time, it can be appropriate for one-to-ones.

10) Focus on food

If you're providing food at the meeting, focus on healthy eating by including plenty of fruit and vegetables and striking high-fat foods off the menu. Always have pitchers of water out for your delegates and fill the menu with healthy whole grains, proteins and low-fat dairy options, not overlooking vegetarian choices. Keep portion sizes in check by slicing food items into halves or by chopping up fruit and vegetables and serving them in large containers.

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