Resetting Events with Wellness 

You may never sit in a banquet chair again

By: Nancy Davis

In mid-March 2020, many activities came to an abrupt halt; one of them was in-person events. It was obviously no longer safe to gather, ironically at a time when human connection was needed more than ever. And no matter the power of technology and the gratitude we all felt for our Wi-Fi connectivity, we hungered for personal interactions.

However, from South by Southwest to global tech conferences, everything was being canceled. The economic impact of these event cancellations has been estimated at $22 billion and climbing.[i]

The pandemic paradigm shifted everything.

As the months passed, several conflicting issues converged in the world of meetings and events: a pent-up desire to travel, the still-spreading coronavirus, and the uptick in virtual technologies, coupled with the unending human desire and need for connection. While gatherings were abruptly canceled, the strong evolutionary drive to be social was becoming more evident.

As Dr. Vivek Murthy, 19th US Surgeon General, recently re-appointed Surgeon General for the Biden administration, and author of Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World said in his keynote interview at the 2020 Global Wellness Summit: “…Whenever you can bring people together, where they can understand one another more clearly by sharing, where they have opportunities to help one another which strengthens connection, then you are helping to build community; you’re contributing to healing. And you’re helping to create the kind of connected, cohesive world that all of us really need, for us and for future generations.”

A New Trend Emerges – with Wellness at the Core
But there is a silver lining, and a new trend has emerged that will forever change meetings and events: reinventing and reimagining how we gather. One smart way to do that is with wellness at the core, not just in form but in content as well. People are seeking ways to embrace wellness, and new models of thoughtfully choreographed events with wellness could be just the “nudge” they need. This trend reinforcesthe importance of what is now top of mind everywhere—health, safety, strengthening immunity, and employing protocols and technologies that can mitigate risk. All of this underscores what is good for people—delivered in a creative and engaging way.

Wellness World Weighs in to Improve Engagement and Results 
The virtual aspect of hybrid events will continue to be refined, and there are sophisticated plans in the works as all the players continue toscramble for new market share. But if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that while technology is at the center of many things, it’s not going to be enough when it comes to human connection and gathering.

A great example of a wellness-infused event happens every year in the French Alps, and this year, they had to pivot. An elite group of global family offices meets annually atop the mountains in Chamonix, France. The Monthly Barometer’s “Summit of Minds” turned hybridthis year, out of necessity, just weeks before the event, when the borders closed between European countries.

What distinguishes this event from most others is that it is led by nature-evangelist Thierry Malleret, a global economist with a resume thatincludes having led the Global Risk Network at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Thierry created “walkshops” where the hearty souls in attendance share ideas while scaling the Alps.

“Meeting and moving in nature is the most productive and creative way to exchange ideas and generate insights. The reason? It enhances our physical and mental wellbeing. At the Monthly Barometer Summit of Minds, we walk the talk!”

Case in point: The 2020 Global Wellness Summit (GWS)
Enter a real-life example of putting wellness at the center of an event and disrupting forever how we think about gathering. While this model was imagined and created by wellness industry experts, it became obvious to all who participated that the hybrid wellness modelcould apply to any gathering for any industry in the future. It was a creative hybrid event that surpassed even the creators’ expectations. Technology and wellness triumphed together and laid the foundation for the way forward.

“Pivot” was the word of 2020, and the GWS made its pivot very early in the year. The conference was originally scheduled for Novemberin Tel Aviv but was moved to The Breakers Palm Beach in the United States—and became a smaller in-person event with a global, virtualcomponent.

The GWS was not, at the time, willing to turn the event entirely “virtual,” as central to the organization’s DNA, and to evidence-based research, is the fact that being together, in person, is key to one’s wellbeing. Organizers were determined to have some people gather in person, if at all possible. Although the usual 600+ delegates from over 60 countries could not be present, a small portion would suffice.

Please Take Your Seats…or Bikes: Adding cardio equipment in the main meeting room
One way in which the GWS truly disrupted the event space was, well, the event space itself! Since they knew the Summit had to adhere to strict social distancing guidelines, they turned a potential negative into a positive. How to reimagine the ballroom and its vast square footage so it wouldn’t appear empty?

Knowing that movement and fitness were key to overall health and wellbeing and knowing that there would be a smaller group of in-person delegates—and the desire to create a sense of togetherness and community, even under these circumstances, organizers reset the room with natural wellness zones. In true collaboration with Planet Fitness, through Victor and Lynne Brick of the John W. Brick MentalWellness Foundation, they created individual “wellness stations,” where delegates could opt to experience the Summit while balancing ona stability ball, moving gently on an elliptical, pedaling on a recumbent bike, or sitting on a traditional banquet chair.

“Nudge Wellness” was all the rage, and very few people sat on banquet chairs.

“Nudge Wellness” is a relatively new term that is meant to inspire healthy behavior by making wellness choices readily accessible andclearly visible. In this case, using a recumbent bike required nothing more than walking into the room and choosing it. No sign-ups, no special training (though trainers were there throughout the event), no obstacles.

In the spirit of movement, and also of creating community, Dr. Phyllis Hubbard led the group in moments of “radiant movement” at the beginning of several of the general sessions to encourage focus, relaxation and general wellbeing.

More Nudge Wellness: Healthy meals and snacks throughout
The GWS worked with The Breakers’ chef and banquet department to create meals and energy breaks where health and immunity were the central themes. The snacks were Individually wrapped, perfect for takeaway, and handed to delegates by the gloved banquet staff in an elegant choreography that made you forget the reason for all the precautions. It helped that the food was as delicious as it was beautiful.

All Work and No Play: Wellness also includes joyful socializing
Evening events on-site at the 2020 Summit were limited by social distancing protocols but not limited by imagination.

“The Mask-erade!” event was one example of turning challenge into opportunity, as the assembled group enjoyed a wildly successful evening of “distanced disco dancing,” a live auction to benefit industry research, and a fine dining experience.

This is an excerpt from the “2021: The Year of the Travel Reset” trend in the 2021 Global Wellness Trends Report.

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[i]https://www.northstarmeetingsgroup.com/News/Industry/CEIR-Economic-Trade-Show-Impact-Coronavirus-COVID-19

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