Event Attendees Want You to Value Their Mental Health

Emotional well-being and mental health have long been undervalued – not just in events, but also in society in general. Driven by today’s younger generations, emotional wellness is more of a priority than ever before.

We already know that event attendees want to see physical wellness and diversity and inclusion reflected in events. Emotional well-being is an emerging trend, and event management professionals should start adapting to this important piece of big-picture wellness.

Elevating emotional well-being

Americans are stressed out. According to a 2018 poll, 55% of Americans feel “a lot” of stress, which is 20 percentage points higher than the global average. A whopping 65% of respondents aged 49 and younger reported a large amount of stress in their daily lives. In addition, an estimated 31% of American adults experience an anxiety disorder during their lives. To combat this stress, society is shifting to value emotional well-being and take steps to improve mental health.

Today, more people are meditating than ever before. According to the CDC, the percentage of Americans who meditate rose from 4.1% in 2012 to 14.2% in 2017. CBD products are a skyrocketing trend, with a market value that could reach $20 billion by 2024. Guided meditation and relaxation apps such as Calm, which has two million subscribers and more than $1 billion in value, are increasing in usage as consumers recognize the importance of reducing stress and improving mental health.

When attending events, guests may feel emotionally drained after enduring packed sunrise-to-sunset schedules, sitting in windowless rooms all day, and sharing space with tens of thousands of people. They are increasingly avoiding situations that are harmful to mental health and are grateful for moments of serenity.

How can events promote emotional wellness and mental health?

Attending large events or those with especially intensive agendas can be an inherently stressful experience. Handing out branded, squeezable stress balls isn’t enough anymore – adding even more of a focus on maintaining emotional wellness should be on every event professional’s mind.

Quiet rooms

Many events already incorporate quiet rooms, dedicated spaces to relax away from the crowds and noise of the main event. These rooms are places where attendees can sit quietly and rest, meditate, pray, journal, or do whatever else they need to do to feel recharged. This is a low-budget consideration and would also better accommodate any neurodivergent individuals who may be especially overwhelmed in a typical event atmosphere. If a guest can’t easily return to their hotel room, setting aside a dedicated quiet space in the venue will provide a way to ease stress during the day.

Design choices

According to the Global Wellness Summit’s wellness trends report, being surrounded by nature or in a space reminiscent of nature can help to decrease stress, increase short-term memory, and restore mental energy. If it’s not possible for attendees to spend time outdoors during the event, finding ways to bring natural light and plant life to a venue may be enough to enjoy some of these benefits. In fact, adding plants in an office that previously had none could increase productivity by 15%, promote a greater attention span, and lower physiological stress. The same rules could apply to event spaces.

Stress-easing swag and services

Switch up your swag and promotional materials! Handing out branded T-shirts is a time-tested tactic, but swag can also be an opportunity for stress reduction. Consider giving out coloring books, vouchers for services like massages, aromatherapy products, meditation and wellness journals, hardy plants, or other items that encourage relaxation. Also note that having fun is just as important as relaxation in the effort to reduce stress. For example, the Microsoft Build conference added a “cuddle corner” with animals in the convention center, while the National Auto Dealers Association Show’s expo floor included an entire quadrant dedicated to fun and games, complete with pinball machines, arcade games, and racing simulators.

Opportunities for wellness

Include chances for attendees to focus on mental health and emotional wellness. This could mean holding brief classes on breathing exercises or stretching, adding a counselor to the staff, or encouraging tech-less time. Many events already offer yoga classes, and some even have meditation and other exercises in mindfulness to reduce stress. Meditation improves concentration and information retention and could be a strategic addition to an event, but not everyone may already know how to meditate. Provide resources on how to practice mindfulness or learn to meditate, such as an infographic in the event guide, a section in the app, or an on-site coach if the budget allows. This could add enormous value during high-stress industry summits or an executive gathering.

Flexible agenda

Having plenty of breaks in an otherwise demanding agenda will allow attendees to give their minds a rest. Encourage them to step outside and get some fresh air, to take advantage of meditation classes, or to look after their mental health. A flexible schedule, with breaks between sessions or alternate viewing options (such as livestreaming), is an especially budget-friendly, low-effort approach.

Mental health and emotional wellness are higher priorities than ever. Event professionals: show your attendees that you value them and their well-being.

Curious to learn more? Opus Agency’s whitepaper, How to Harness Cultural Trends for More Successful Event Management (PDF link), identifies three current trends in society that are changing the event industry.

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