As the events industry broadens its understanding of mental health, we examine the latest methods planners can use to enhance wellbeing.
After recovering from the unprecedented challenges of the past two years, protecting the wellbeing of delegates has become more paramount as reports continue to raise concern about poor mental health across the industry. With the return of in-person events, options have become more open for planners to consider different methods when working with venues to create healthy event spaces. Encouraging wellbeing and reducing anxiety levels to prevent dropouts, the latest strategies also build on the industry’s greater awareness and understanding of mental health and wellbeing.
Communicating clearly and encouraging open dialogue with colleagues and delegates is a simple but vital first step to help make them feel mentally prepared in the build up to an event. Organisers who make delegates aware of all planning considerations that are being made can also take any individual concerns into account quickly, especially when it comes to travel preparation.
“The disruption of normal routines, unfamiliar surroundings, and the presence of strangers all contribute to the disruption of stable mental health during travel,” explained Warwick Conferences Business Development Manager, Lisa Hadfield. “Think about the smaller details that delegates need to know in advance to have a stress-free journey and arrive feeling happy, like offering clear directions to the venue and reassurance about car parking or providing clear signage around the venue upon arrival.”
Working with venues surrounded by natural scenery can have an immediate advantage in bringing a calming dimension to events. Walking routes for delegates are an increasingly common sight at venues, allowing delegates to take time out or network. The Venues Collection, with outdoor venues including Yarnfield Park in Staffordshire and Eastwood Hall in Nottingham, feature walking routes outside of the venue for delegates to use, opening the chance to network while getting exercise in the fresh air.
“Instead of the cliché and basic fact conversations that pervade many networking sessions, networking while walking gives an opportunity for relaxed but more fulfilling conversations,” said Managing Director of Red Kite Management Counselling, Robin Tucker. “Walking works as a great conversational lubricant, creating a natural bond where it is easier to express your opinions and feelings. This enables trust to develop more quickly and keep each other mentally at ease.”
Utilising outdoor spaces in city centre venues is also an option, with a rising appeal of terraces and rooftop gardens giving planners options to host conferences, meetings, or informal social elements outside. Making use of floor-to-ceiling windows and keeping doors propped open to allow fresh air and light inside also works to invigorate delegates.
Providing dedicated space for delegates to recharge away from the rest of the venue can also reduce stress levels and has proved effective for keynote speakers or those returning to intimate face- to-face meetings. Introducing the Quiet Rooms concept last year, EventWell prioritised meditation stations with refreshments and noise-cancelling headphones provided for delegates to unwind and develop coping skills during the resurgence of in-person events.
“Although many people are returning to live events, it may cause some delegates to become overwhelmed by the venue’s lighting, sound, and crowded spaces, or the lack of breaks throughout the day,” said EventWell Chief Executive Helen Moon. “The idea behind Quiet Rooms is about keeping people at an event with a space available to just sit and take a breather if they need to.”
Factoring in sustainability methods to event planning can also give further opportunity to help boost wellbeing, with many industry organisations taking healthy food options into account to nourish both the minds and bodies of delegates. Launching its new Meetings for Change initiative earlier this year, Lime Venue Portfolio has explained how offering a well-balanced food menu with ethically sourced options can help delegates make informed decisions and enhance their confidence during events.
“Food that has been created to be slow-release and keep blood sugars stable will help to balance energy and reduce fatigue, meaning that delegates can balance productivity with sustainability and mental wellness to get the most out of the event,” said Sales Director Jo Austin. “Being treated to food with great nutrition and taste is a sustainable and well-balanced way to aid a delegate’s concentration and wellbeing.”