Incorporating health and wellness components into a meeting or event is becoming more important than ever for today’s stressed and overworked employees who are seeking a more healthful balance in their lives. Kayla T. Koeber, meeting planner and wealth management advisor at Voyager Wealth Advisors Inc. understands this only too well.
At Voyager Wealth Advisors’ team retreat last May at Red Mountain Resort in Ivins, Utah, participants experienced a cornucopia of options focused on enhancing well-being.
While Voyager’s event was a working retreat with an emphasis on strengths assessment and future visioning, the overall theme was a celebration of Voyager Wealth Advisors’ practice, their clients and each other.
“We offered a healthy breakfast and team activity with a leadership development consultant,” Koeber says. “The event was low key, with relaxed dress and comfortable couches where lounging was encouraged, in a very informal setting.”
The group also engaged in a “walk and talk” activity using area hiking trails. Each group included only two people who hiked and discussed key topics assigned in advance of the retreat. At the team lunch, the Voyager Wealth Advisors’ group discussed healthy lifestyles, including eating and exercise commitments, managing stress, sleeping enough, turning off electronics and focusing on life priorities. After lunch each team member received a personal massage, with time spent in a relaxation room before and after their spa treatments.
“Our key philosophy is, ‘It’s not about dying with the most money. It’s about living the best life,’ ” Koeber says. “We cannot advocate our clients live their best lives if we are not committed to the same ourselves. Wellness, waking up each day feeling vibrant and optimistic, is a key component of living our best lives. In addition, a focus on personal wellness builds a sense of intimacy, rapport, support and commitment as we share personal challenges and goals.”
As owner of the company, Koeber understands and appreciates her team’s challenges and strengths far better on both a work and personal level.
“The team members left understanding how committed I am to each of them, the challenges I face as well as the company leader and a strong sense that we are all in this together,” Koeber says.
For more than 20 years, Red Mountain Resort, one of the nation’s premier destination spa and wellness retreats set amidst Southwestern Utah’s stunning red rock cliffs and canyons has specialized in health and wellness programming that addresses the physical and emotional needs of meeting and event attendees. From “mindful” and guided hikes through Snow Canyon State Park, to meditation and stress management classes and customized outdoor adventures, attendees have an array of options that encourage physical activity, self-reflection and overall self-care. Red Mountain Resort also offers complimentary stress reduction baskets placed in meeting rooms, stretch and breathe breaks, as well as nutritious smoothie bar options.
Walter Kinzie, CEO of Encore Live, a meeting and event production company, has helped both financial and insurance meeting planners and attendees put wellness on their agenda in a multitude of areas.
“When selecting a meeting site, we choose venues that have easy access to workout facilities,” Kinzie says. “We also provide workout classes to our attendees — whether it be onsite or offsite. Lastly, we select fresh and healthy cuisine when planning our event menus and give attendees a variety of choices that adhere to all dietary restrictions. We want to take the stress out of travel and create a hassle-free experience for every attendee.”
One of Encore Live’s financial clients, who wished to not disclose the company name, recently orchestrated the company’s annual sales meeting with 440 attendees. “Our firm brings all of its sales teams across the country to one location,” says the financial company’s meeting planner. “The event goes on for four days and includes trainings and fun employee appreciation events.”
Prior to the event, the financial company sent an online registration form for attendees to fill out. The form asked if they had any food allergies and/or dietary restrictions.
“We worked with the hotel and restaurants to incorporate vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options in every meal we provided,” the meeting planner says. “We also offered whole fruit items like apples, oranges and bananas in attendees’ rooms.”
Because the meeting days are full, Encore Live made sure to incorporate frequent breaks throughout the day so attendees could go outside or go for a walk. They also organized pickup basketball games with the hotel.
“Incorporating wellness components in our meeting shows our employees that we care and we listened to their feedback,” the financial meeting planner says. “Listen to your attendees and pay attention to how they feel. When you’re in 40 meetings and away from home, it’s important to have healthy meal options and a balanced schedule. Going outside and taking a walk allows attendees to clear their minds and helps them to be more productive.”
Kinzie and his team at Encore Live put a heavy emphasis on the overall happiness and well-being of the attendees. They strive to create environments where people are happy, less stressed, eating right and taking care of themselves.
“Health and wellness is a growing trend among corporations, and we expect it to continue,” Kinzie says. “We are seeing more and more companies incorporate health and wellness options into their meetings. Companies are recognizing the connection between healthy activities and employee productivity.”
A recent leadership conference planned by Encore Live included an afternoon devoted to fitness and community service. Participants were encouraged to take part in a variety of physical fitness activities including an obstacle course, fun run, basketball tournament and Zumba class.
“We tied this afternoon into our client’s charity where participants could give back to the community and assemble duffle bags for children entering foster care,” Kinzie says. “We created a memorable afternoon where participants could feel good about their health and feel good about giving back to the community. For another client, we organized yoga on the beach. Participants were able to clear their heads and recharge before the meeting.”
One key way that many planners incorporate healthful options into an event is by offering spa treatments to attendees. Perhaps the most popular treatment is massage therapy, which practitioners say can rejuvenate mind, body and spirit by reducing muscle tension, improving joint flexibility and promoting faster healing.
“Spa management is always available to assist the meeting planner with an array of suggestions and ideas to incorporate health and wellness into the meeting agenda,” says Cynthia Bell, executive spa director of operations at Acqualina Spa located at Acqualina Resort & Spa in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida.
As an appreciation to attendees, guests at Acqualina can experience their choice of a 50-minute treatment to include either a Swedish massage or skin radiance facial. In addition, the attendees are offered a welcoming Thai coconut drink available upon check-in or after their service to be enjoyed on the pool terrace.
“Most meeting planners are interested in stress reduction and wellness for their teams,” Bell says. “Incorporating spa services with yoga is typically the best combination for most of our groups. Many attendees will work harder and more passionately knowing that their company cares enough to include their well-being into the meeting agenda.”
Event director Teresa Blumberg with Blumberg Events recently helped plan a sales group meeting at Acqualina for 40 attendees from a financial company.
“In today’s society, people run at 100 miles an hour so it’s very refreshing for a group to have wellness incorporated into an event as this lightens the experience and allows them to concentrate and enjoy the experience better,” Blumberg says.
At the recent sales group meeting, Blumberg offered early morning yoga on the beach followed by a light breakfast in the spa with a smoothie station. “We also offered gluten-free options on the menus that were served and a guided meditation to the group on how to de-stress after a long day — such as stretching exercises after each meeting session to allow for better focus,” Blumberg says. “It created a breather between sessions and the healthy food options worked for people trying to be more healthy in their food choices. Attendees also appreciated that the company added some extra options to the event.”
Such a holistic approach to stress reduction is the most effective way to restore mind-body equilibrium, enhance alertness and boost energy. The yoga component — in addition to increasing flexibility and muscle endurance — also can promote a deep sense of well-being.
The Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta, Georgia, shows its commitment to guests’ well-being through a variety of wellness programs that help planners and attendees stay on top of their game.
As Ron Tarson, general manager of The Westin Peachtree Plaza explains, meeting attendees can embark on the “I Climbed The Peach” challenge, where small groups sign up to climb the 72 stories to the top of The Westin Peachtree Plaza. Once completed they receive an “I Climbed The Peach” t-shirt — a souvenir that doubles as bragging rights for conquering the Southeast’s tallest hotel.
The hotel also offers “RunWestin,” which entails a team of meeting attendees joining a concierge on a three-mile guided run around the city to sightsee while enjoying a physical activity. In 2016 the hotel launched Bike Concierge, a fitness alternative providing a fun, unique way for people to see the sites of Atlanta. Participants cycle with a trained guide, who takes meeting attendees through an eight-mile route to explore sites such as the BeltLine, Freedom Parkway, Jackson Street Bridge and Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park.
“Meeting planners today are truly looking for it all,” Tarson says. “Of course location, quality and accessibility are still very important, but another important factor is participant satisfaction. When a meeting planner can provide unique experiences to their attendees, like our teambuilding activities, unique fitness initiatives and items from our SuperFoodsRx menu, they seem to have the most success.”
Shantel Bridges, director of event planning at The Marriott Magnificent Mile in Chicago, says that today’s financial and insurance meeting planners are always looking for new ways to continue to offer sweet treats to the attendees, but making sure they also have the healthy items from which to choose.
“We really try to create some great items and breaks that are attractive to the attendees and don’t just include boring greens,” Bridges says. “Offering items like our “superfoods break,” provides items such as freshly made smoothies, super grains and antioxidant shooters. For those that need a little sweet treat, we also offer cocoa nib bark that we make in-house.”
The Marriott Magnificent Mile has a 95 percent scratch kitchen so their team is capable of tailoring any menu to ensure it fits the needs of the planner and their attendees.
“The other great thing about being a 95 percent scratch kitchen is that we are using fresh ingredients and the majority of them come from local farms,” Bridges says. “Also we try to partner with our clients to intertwine our new fitness center and fitness lab along with great food options. So, if we have a group that wants to offer sunrise yoga for their attendees, we can set up some great healthy snack breaks for them to have afterward.”
With more than 90,000 room options, New York City hotels also have incorporated wellness options that include world-class spas with meditation components, wellness tracking throughout the hotels, customized airflow and sound to improve sleep and for corporate groups, meeting wellness programs. In 2018, the luxury gym Equinox will open its first U.S. hotel in Manhattan that will feature a 60,000-sf fitness center.
“We found a hotel spa option about 20 minutes north of Manhattan in a historic castle that offers attendees a customized menu of spa treatments such as steam, whirlpool, relaxation lounges and a private VIP treatment room,” says Karen Shackman, owner of Shackman Associates New York. “And they can get their sweat on as a way to start the process in an even healthier way. Whether or not attendees opt for private health and fitness classes, the backdrop for the spa is a serene wooded landscape in a sophisticated oasis that utilizes stone walls and minimal exterior openings to blend with its peaceful setting. You would never know you are so close to New York City.”
A massive stone wall guides attendees through an opening into a sheltered interior courtyard. Meeting attendees can experience six hours of sweating, steaming and zoning out in a robe in the relaxation room, where attendees can sip organic teas on lounges while enjoying amazing views with floor-to-ceiling windows.
Another hotel making strides in their wellness offerings to meeting attendees is Airlie, located just 45 minutes outside of Washington, DC, in Warrenton, Virginia. A distraction-free oasis for meetings, Airlie is known as “the island of thought.” This beautiful retreat sources produce from their own 20-acre organic garden and offers healthful breakout sessions as well as a myriad of fitness opportunities through bicycling, hiking, walking paths and yoga.
Because most corporate meeting planners and attendees are seeking these wellness components, hotels like Airlie and others must continually adapt to meet these changing needs.
Major hotel brands such as Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt have established meeting programs with wellness in mind. For example, MGM and Marriott’s Stay Well Meetings is a comprehensive wellness meetings experience featuring premier meeting spaces, state-of-the-art air purification, energizing lighting, nutritious menu options, soothing aromatherapy and other features designed to enhance productivity. The Hilton Meet With Purpose program, offered at 275 Hilton hotels, revolves around the three components of the program: Mindful Meeting (waste and resource tracking system); Mindful Eating (balanced menus and light activities); and Mindful Being (uplifting meeting activities). And Hilton’s new Five Feet to Fitness room category brings more than 11 different fitness equipment and accessory options into the hotel room. Hyatt’s Be Well program, a collaboration with integrative medicine pioneer Frank Lipman, M.D., is designed to help attendees maintain their health routines while traveling by offering increased fitness activities, expanded menu options and nutritious to-go alternatives.
With the ongoing frantic pace of work life, meeting and event planning professionals stress that the trend of incorporating wellness components into events is here to stay.
“By thinking outside the box, our team is bringing meetings into the future and giving planners a holistic experience that anticipates and answers meeting attendee’s needs,” Tarson says.
Bridges agrees. “This is definitely a trend that is growing. When planners come for site visits, they are asking about our fitness center and what we have to offer,” she says. “When clients see our fitness center and fitness lab, they are blown away. When we have groups in-house, we see a trend of attendees making an effort to get to the gym either before or after their meetings. As we start to see the millennials become more of the business traveler, they want the fun options when it comes to food, but they still keep in mind healthy eating and fitness. It’s definitely a work hard, play hard, stay balanced lifestyle.” I&FMM