Introducing Health and Wellness into Your Events

By Heather Larson

The Pacific Northwest is known for spectacular scenery from ocean to mountain to high desert vistas. Besides enjoying the views, your meeting or event attendees are undoubtedly day-dreaming about being outside and immersed in the remarkable countryside. Proficient planners are introducing health and wellness components into the schedule to keep attendees engaged and benefiting from all aspects that are offered. Whether your client asks for a locally-sourced catering menu or you suggest adding a yoga class to a meeting, healthy options are popular in our current environment. You can incorporate well-being and promote self-care for participants in several ways.

Selecting the appropriate venue will be the initial step towards promoting an event with health and wellness in mind. “We recently helped our client book their annual conference at Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington,” said Melanie Marconi, a partner and chief operating officer at BDI Events of Portland, Oregon. “The client plans to have workshops outside, a concert experience underneath the stars and yoga on the lawn overlooking the Gorge.” Skamania Lodge also offers zip lining, golfing, biking and an outdoor salt water hot tub to keep meeting attendees active.

If the event must be held in an urban area, look for hotels and conference centers located within close proximity to parks, public access river walks or other activities. Portland, Oregon, as well as other cities, have rental bike stations throughout the urban core. Planners may want to provide an easy-to-read map for attendees to access these.

Conferences headquartered close to vineyards, resorts, lodges or beaches inherently offer an invitation to walk, explore and enjoy the fresh air. However, not all visitors will feel comfortable striking out on their own. Organizing gathering places for individuals to meet up after dinner or during free time will provide attendees with an opportunity for exercise as well as networking.

Once you’ve booked an appropriate venue and planned an active agenda, you might want to check out healthy menu selections. “Continental breakfasts full of pastries and juices can be replaced by nutritious locally-sourced food options,” says Kara Owen, director of sales and marketing at Skamania Lodge. Healthy options such as fruit and granola can be offered at afternoon breaks.

Many Hilton Hotels have embraced the healthconsciousness concept fully with their “Meet with Purpose” initiative. This idea incorporates healthy food options with physical fitness breaks. As Toni Zoblotsky, director of B2B marketing at Hilton, says, “The initiative makes the planner’s job easier and delights the attendees.” Local hotel participants in “Meet with Purpose” include the Hilton Garden Inn in Medford, Oregon, the Hilton Portland and Executive Tower, Embassy Suites in Bellevue and Lynnwood, Washington, and the Doubletree Spokane City Center.

Sometimes your client needs a specific type of healthy food. In Marconi’s case, she’s had requests for food that follows particular dietary needs, so she had to work closely with hotel chefs to prepare the special, custom menus for those groups. You can also provide conference attendees a list of local restaurants that feature healthy options.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends building physical activity into meetings and events. Include activity breaks into meeting agendas. Smaller groups may want to organize a walking meeting that gets the creative juices flowing.

Geocaching is a popular activity. Using the GPS feature built into most smart phones, groups can go on a high-tech treasure hunt. Many outdoor venues and communities have hidden caches for groups to discover. In Seattle, instead of geocaching, you can opt for a Geo Duck Adventure, offered by Ride the Ducks, where your group finds hidden objects around Seattle.

If you’re planning a meeting in Portland, Pedal Bike Tours offers customized teambuilding bicycling tours, or you can ask for a guided rock climbing experience from the Portland Rock Gym. For a unique twist on team building, inquire at ADX Portland about building tables and chairs, creating electronic signage or making a Pacman arcade console for the group’s office. Team building can be as simple as handing out inexpensive pedometers (or asking attendees to download an app on their phones like Noom Walk) and seeing who logs the most steps, or as difficult as going through a ropes course. You may also want to offer meeting goers some active options for their scheduled or free time such as biking, nature walks, hiking (provide maps, mileage and elevation gain), rafting, stand-up paddle boarding, yoga or tai chi classes, zip lining or Zumba. In Florence, Oregon, schedule a sand castle building session with master sculptors through Sand Master Park, suggests Brandt. Where else will you find this kind of adventure?

However you choose to infuse health and wellness into your events, you have endless opportunities to do so in the Pacific Northwest. Many destinations and venues will work with planners to develop a program to meet the needs of the group. For example, Debbie McCune, director of sales for Travel Salem says, “We are happy to help coordinate meditation coaches or fitness experts who would come to the venue and work with your group.”