As event professionals, the health and safety of our attendees has become a higher priority since the impact of COVID-19. The pandemic has heightened the need to address mental health and exercise for conference attendees.
PCMA made numerous opportunities available for attendees to prioritize their overall health at the Convening Leaders conference held in January in Las Vegas. Yoga, Orangetheory Fitness and a 5K Run were the highlighted events that attendees could register for in advance. These efforts were for all skill levels and each offering featured different types of exercise so the attendee could keep to their at-home routine. In addition, there was a location in the “Promenade” that centered around wellness such as chair yoga and meditation that participants could use daily at home or at their office. The schedule offered openings for attendees to build these into their day.
And the approach that PCMA took toward wellness is growing across the industry.
Mindfulness spaces are ideal to give attendees a break to refocus and come back ready to engage with others and absorb the knowledge being shared. -Dr. Kali Arnold
Incorporating mindfulness and wellness practices into the conference experience is gaining popularity across many conventions and shows. The Namaste Project, based in Atlanta, GA, provides mindfulness training to schools, businesses, community organizations, and parents in order to spread calm and improve communities. After recently sponsoring the Wellness Pavilion at the Council for Exceptional Children’s Annual Convention and Expo in Orlando, Founder Dr. Kali Arnold noted “When participants and exhibitors show up for conferences, they are rightly eager to learn, network, and connect. But at some point, everyone hits a wall and feelings of being overwhelmed and physically and mentally tired come up. Mindfulness spaces are ideal to give attendees a break to refocus and come back ready to engage with others and absorb the knowledge being shared.” Especially for groups who have not assembled in some time, the mere concept of shared physical environments can be stressful; mindfulness practices at conferences help bring attendees back to center in those cases as well.
Namaste Project’s Wellness Pavilion included yoga space with instructors on hand, comfortable meditation stations with pre-recorded guided relaxation media, as well as morning movement classes for all attendees in advance of the opening of the Exhibit Hall. It is recommended that when exercise and mental wellness activities are added to your program that they run unopposed or during free time. We’ve noticed changes in human behavior since the national pandemic “pivot” to virtual that attention spans have shortened. Therefore, adding short breaks can result in stronger engagement from your audience throughout the duration of your conference.
Based on these examples, it is clear that conferences are offering an environment relevant to the attendees’ personal and professional lives. For years, it has been emphasized to planners that “content is king” but now the focus is to balance content and overall well-being.
Mark Harvey, CMP, CMM | Principal | Ethos Meetings and Events
Christina Pino, CMP, DES | Director, Conference Design & Logistics | Stellato Meeting Solutions