6 Ways to Incorporate Wellness into Your Next Virtual Event

September 14, 2020

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If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that health and wellness are vital. It’s been a trending topic for years, but in recent months wellness has evolved in presentation, integration, and accessibility. We see it presented in innovative ways (think Zoom fitness sessions), synching with various technologies (think Apple watch), and with lower barriers to entry (think vlogs on meditation, diet-conscious recipe blogs, or YouTube yoga videos). And this evolution has not skipped the meetings and events world. While physical events and activities have been on pause, incorporating virtual wellness is in full play!

According to Eventbrite, nearly twenty thousand online events are currently being published daily and almost half of them are health and wellness-related or business and professional events. CEO Julia Hartz acknowledges that despite the current health crisis that brought many live events to a halt, it has been encouraging to see the increase in demand for online experiences, which she thinks shows our timeless need for human connection is as strong as ever. “From online seminars to livestream dance parties, this is opening up opportunities for event creators to extend their reach around the world,” she said. One critical opportunity is virtual engagement through the lens of physical and mental wellbeing.

Whether from home or in the office, our workdays are long and demanding. Add the chaos of everyday life and you have a perfect recipe for stress and strain. Inevitably, your attendees will bring this stress with them to your virtual events. But fear not! You can help them alleviate heavy burdens by promoting focus, engagement, and balance with these six wellness-related activities.

1. Lead by Example

When you incorporate health and wellness, make sure it feels authentic and not forced. If, as a planner, you believe in the value of including wellness activities in your virtual event, it will translate more like fun and less like a chore on a checklist.

When you send out your event timeline and schedule, highlight the portions that are designed to promote health and let participants know what to expect with a brief description. Some activities may be for the entire group, some may be optional. Either way, let participants know that your virtual event will accommodate breaks, physical and mental exercises, mediation, connectivity and more.

2. Give them a Break

Let’s face it, we have short attention spans! While listening to presentation after presentation, our minds have a tendency to wander… “I can’t forget to text my mom back. I need to make a grocery list. Maybe there is a tracking update on my package. Did I water the plants on the back deck?” Sound familiar? It’s okay; we all get distracted.

Help participants stay focused by building in short, free-form breaks throughout your virtual event. No need for instructions here, just let attendees disengage from screens and slideshows so they can walk around, send text messages, respond to emails, water the deprived plants, or refresh the tracking information on that package that has not moved since somewhere in Iowa.

These 15-minute breaks help minimize stress and can reenergize participants when they do return to learning sessions. People are more likely to contribute and retain valuable information when they can focus.

3. Move Your Body

For something a little more structured, try a couple of short fitness breaks to get attendees’ blood (and ideas) flowing. Activities like stretching, dancing, or walking can invigorate your attendees, improve their cognitive performance, and boost mood.

Depending on the format of your event, you could organize a short workout break in between sessions. Or, if a built-in workout break is too off-topic and won’t quite resonate, consider providing a “wellness hub” with links in a separate stream so those interested can change up the pace with a fun workout activity. You can encourage participation by awarding gamification points to attendees who visit the wellness hub.

Because online workouts and dance videos have been helpful for those looking to exercise during this pandemic, incorporating similar activities into your event is a good way to deliver unexpected value to attendees. Bonus? As the saying goes, kill two birds with one stone. Attend an online event and do a workout: Done and done!

4. Calm the Mind

Mental health is just as important as physical health. Research on mental health in the meeting and event industry has revealed that professionals are 65 percent more likely to suffer from mental health issues today than they did only five years ago. Let’s change this! If it fits into your brand’s messaging, consider lunch-and-learn mental health awareness discussion panels. But if that is a stretch, you can still positively impact mental health by finding ways to incorporate activities that stimulate and calm the mind.

Guided meditations or novice yoga sessions are a good way to decrease stress and fortify the immune system. Not only has research shown that meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness exercises can decrease people’s chances of developing the flu or a cold, but it has also been shown to decrease stress, anxiety, inflammation, depression, promote sleep quality, and improve people’s overall quality of life.

There are numerous types of meditations such as deep breathing exercises, brain-focus mediations, and imagery meditation that you can incorporate into your virtual event.

With Spark+AI Summit 2020, Databricks included early morning yoga sessions to get minds and bodies “ready to engage” in a full day of learning, networking and discussions around data.

The English Chelsea Football club brought mindfulness to meetings by teaming up with world-renowned meditation and yoga expert, Vinay Menon, breaking up the day’s events a 45-minute meditation session.

For your event, if hiring a meditation expert is not feasible, try something on a smaller scale. Provide calming music for downtime, post guided mediation links such as the ones listed for free from UCLA, or schedule mini-mindfulness sessions during the event.

5. Create Deep Connections

A desire for connectivity is at the heart of the human experience, which is now just as much virtual as it is live. Having a sense of connection with others has been proven to increase people’s longevity by 50 percent, strengthens people’s immune systems, lower rates of depression and anxiety. So, to increase your attendees’ overall wellness, create an environment for personal connections within your virtual event.

There are a number of ways an event planner can achieve this. Stova offers AI guided attendee matching to help you make the most of networking during an event by matching you with other attendees based on common interests. End the day’s session with a virtual happy hour or, since we are talking about good health here, leave out the alcohol, and wrap things up with a campfire circle. This is a good way to put business and learning aside to know teammates better.

In a simulated live virtual session from Stova, speakers’ presentations are pre-recorded. While they are playing, the presenter is available in real time to answer questions and engage with the audience. This opens the door to relevant conversations and meaningful connections while keeping the presentation moving forward on-schedule.

If your event features special guests, highlighted presenters, or celebrities, consider an additional virtual version of a fireside chat or an ‘ask me anything” session to further engage attendees in open conversationThese can be inspiring, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and with many celebrities and entertainers stuck at home, they are more accessible and reasonably priced than ever!

6. Health Tip Reminders

If you’re using a mobile event app for your event, utilize the push notification feature to send attendees personalized “healthy tips of the day”. These tips or reminders can be sayings like, “Don’t forget to stretch,” “Be mindful,” “Drink more water,” or “Get your steps in!”

Many people are used to smartphone notifications, so these health-related reminders may be an added value in a familiar format. It also reinforces your commitment to promoting good health throughout your event.

Wrap Up

Employees and attendees aren’t robots. We need more than the occasional reboot. More and more companies are discovering the importance and benefits of corporate wellness programs both in employee health and recruiting. It is no stretch to see these values appear in corporate events, live and virtual.

Event planners can successfully include wellness in their virtual events by:

  1.   Setting the expectations from the beginning that health-related activities will be integrated in the event schedule
  2.   Accommodating short breaks
  3.   Engaging the body with simple and fun movements for everyone to enjoy
  4.   Engaging the mind with meditation exercises
  5.   Providing opportunities for open communication and valuable connections
  6.   Keeping wellness top-of-mind with notification reminders

Without misaligning your brand’s message or being too heavy-handed, infuse your virtual event with a mindfulness toward health and wellness. Simple, fun, and flexible activities can energize the body and open the mind at the same time. Now that’s balance. Namaste!

Need assistance incorporating wellness sessions and networking into your virtual event?

Contact Stova.

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