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The importance of looking after mental health & wellness in events

The Meetings Show’s advisory board member Nicole Leida, head of conference and events at National Cancer Research Institute, discusses the importance of focusing on mental health and wellness in events and gives some helpful tips on how to improve wellbeing for staff and clients.

Events are becoming very much part of everyday life – often our delegates attend conferences away from home and for a long time, so if we can provide the same level of opportunity for them to carry on with their usual routine and take care of themselves, then we are doing our job well. There are studies out there that have shown that people learn better when they are well-rested and well-fed, so if we want our events to be a successful learning experience we have to provide this.

For companies who want to improve health and wellbeing, the best starting point is often going back to basics. It’s something I’ve seen working well in many environments. These are my top tips:

1. Lead by example
If there are things you provide to your staff on a day-to-day basis in the office, then I’d most definitely offer it at events as well e.g. fruit and water.

2. Move more
Encourage people to move during long sessions: standing up when greeting a speaker is a simple but effective way of moving more whilst at a conference. You could take it further and offer morning jogs or walks to discover the area near the conference centre.

3.Offer healthier socials
Social activities don’t always have to be drink-related. Tours on foot or bicycles can work well.

4.Think nutrition
Talk to the venue about offering nutritious food. This doesn’t have to break the bank – there are creative ways to offer lovely and healthy food that will keep people energised and alert during sessions.
Whatever you decide to do to improve mental health and wellbeing, it doesn’t need to be complicated. Offering flexi-time is often a win-win as it allows staff to find a balance that works for them which means they are more motivated and invested when at work. If you have the space, offer in-house yoga or exercise classes – this is an effective way for staff to be able to do some physical activity whilst at work and it is more cost effective than subsidising gym membership, for example.

Why not organise walking meetings? We don’t always have to sit around a table. Above all, keep an open-door approach to mental health so people feel safe and comfortable about approaching their manager when things are a bit too stressful or there are other things going on.

We have seen the benefits from introducing a well-being programme at the National Cancer Research Institute’s Annual Conference.

We introduced a well-being programme last year which included morning jogs, meditation, step challenges, free bike hire, standing ovations and healthy food. This year we added colouring sessions, a book club and a creative session with Lego.

We feel it is important for us to offer this programme alongside one of the conference streams on ‘Prevention’ [of cancer]. All sessions were well-received and enjoyed by delegates. They provided a great opportunity to de stress but also make new connections with like-minded people and learn something new. The feedback has been very positive throughout and it is definitely something we will continue to offer going forward.


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