Toni Zoblotsky is director of B2B marketing at Hilton Worldwide, responsible for leading teams that deliver quality creative assets to elevate the client experience and perception of the Hilton portfolio. As part of this overall effort, Toni helped bring to life the Meet With Purpose program. Launched corporately in 2015, the program offers socially and environmentally responsible ways for meeting planners to reduce waste, improve efficiencies and incorporate healthy eating and well-being into their meetings to enhance the attendee experience and support their own corporate responsibility goals. Always one to stretch herself with new challenges, Toni enjoys participating in yoga several times a week and hopes to become teacher-certified in 2017.
As someone who has worked hard to lose 40 pounds over the last two years, I know it’s a struggle to eat well when traveling for business. It’s easy to deviate from a healthful regimen and resort to splurging and snacking when you’re tired and far from your kitchen. I’m sure you’ll likely agree!
In my role as director of B2B Marketing at Hilton, and as an attendee of many meetings throughout my career, I am especially attuned to the desire of business guests and meeting attendees to pay attention to their weight, exercise regimen and their overall stress levels. That proves especially true come new year when many of us make — and try hard not to break — our 2017 resolutions about exercise and diet habits.
“We made it our mission to define the key details that would make attendees happier, healthier and more productive.”
Of the most common New Year’s resolutions, the top is lose weight, with another popular goal to stay fit and healthy. But only 8 percent of people actually achieve and maintain these aspirations. Oftentimes it’s because routines become hectic, and business trips, conventions and corporate meetings can turn into the busiest of days.
A recent Hilton survey of meeting attendees underscores this challenge. Over half of our survey respondents said they pay attention to what they eat and make sure to exercise in their daily lives, but most were unsatisfied with the ability to maintain this lifestyle while attending meetings at hotels. In fact, 52 percent said they ate a meal or snack they didn’t want because a better option wasn’t available. Plus, 39 percent reported falling asleep or being drowsy during meetings.
Of course, meetings are vital for business success. And for attendees to contribute and collaborate in the most fruitful way, they need to be in their element, feeling comfortable and refreshed. With my own experiences in mind, we at Hilton made it a pet project to be the change that others desired to see in this industry. We launched Meet With Purpose.
It provides meeting and event professionals with ideas that pump up energy and boost creative thinking. They can make nutritious meals and snacks and exercise breaks as much of a priority as the meeting agenda. We made it our mission to define the key details that would make attendees happier, healthier and more productive while convening for their business conference or event at our properties.
In short, when it comes to food, we strive to instill a “quality over quantity” mindset. Teaming with meeting planners, our executive chefs source ingredients locally and seasonally. We fight food fatigue with items high in protein that keep attendees alert and able to concentrate. Then we team the nutritious and tasty meal offerings with common fitness activities that can be built into a meeting agenda, such as walking and gentle yoga.
One marquee offering embodying wellness and health is our Yoga & Yogurt menu item. It features a morning yoga session followed by a nutritious and delicious yogurt parfait bar. Our “Cut and Create Salad” menu item is another option that delivers nutrition-packed dishes. With scissors in hand, meeting attendees prepare their meal from a unique, custom-made display of local greens and accoutrements — items such as edamame, pickled papaya, jicama and polenta croutons — placed along the center of a conference table.
Reflecting on my own weight-loss pursuit, and based on the positive reception and feedback about Meet With Purpose we’ve heard from meeting planners and attendees, my team and I have seen a variety of ways meeting planners can help make meetings healthier, more active and productive.
Below are 10 simple, effective tips we encourage meeting planners to consider when mapping their next agenda:
1. Start early. Offer attendees an early hike or walk before the meeting begins — but build it into the agenda so they don’t feel like they have to set an extra alarm. Pair it with a nutritious offering of fruit, grain cereals and other healthful breakfast offerings including juices readily available in the meeting room.
2. Get outdoors. Provide convenient access to outdoor space. If attendees will be splitting into breakout groups, encourage them to meet outside. Mix meetings with outdoor activities — whether time for a swim, a tennis match or any walking paths developed and recommended by the hotel.
3. Take short breaks. Plan for opportunities where attendees can switch seats and walk around during meetings. Incorporate shorter breaks more often vs. a few longer breaks. Incorporate a stretching exercise mid-morning or afternoon.
4. Create a “fit” environment. Accessorize the meeting space with “fit” gear such as standing tables, exercise balls and yoga mats. Encourage attendees to sit on the floor, the chair-balls or stand so they’re more comfortable. Consider setting up a mindfulness booth, perhaps incorporating massage chairs or headsets with relaxing music at a busy convention or outside a packed ballroom space.
5. Choose comfy. Relax the dress code, allowing for more comfortable clothes and shoes so attendees can use down time to walk around.
6. Find fitness time. Allot time in the schedule for, perhaps, a 15-minute yoga class or light jog. Find a local fitness instructor to come and teach a class. If you’re in a big conference room or ballroom, lots of room exists for activity. Be sure to have lots of water on hand and some healthful snacks.
7. Make it a game. Since iPhones have a health app and other fitness-tracking devices are popular, plan a game or friendly competition among attendees to see who can accumulate the most steps during the meetings.
8. Treat the team. Consult with the hotel’s spa to see if you can get special promotions for attendees. Plan a game or two of bowling at a nearby facility.
9. Beautify the buffet. If you do opt into a buffet, make it colorful and healthful with different lettuces, vegetables and sides. Eat the rainbow as they say! Attendees can still make choices according to their liking, and they’ll feel satisfied but not stuffed. Plus, a beautiful spread or individual plate makes for a perfect Instagram about the meeting!
10. Support local purveyors. Attendees are always looking for a way to immerse themselves in a local city or region when traveling on business. Is there a local farm that makes great jam, or is the hotel near a fish market? Work with your venue to see what’s fresh and local to their community and how you can impress and nourish attendees with healthful, homegrown menus.
Good luck in reaching your 2017 resolutions as it applies to ensuring that your meetings keep participants engaged via action-packed meals and movement. And don’t forget to survey attendees after an event to gauge what they liked best and incorporate their satisfaction drivers into future meetings. C&IT