Anyone who has been to IMEX America, let alone Las Vegas, knows what a sensory overload the experience can bring to attendees. Overwhelmed often comes to mind—at the thought of thousands of people descending upon the show, the impossible number of appointments to keep and navigating the maze of the tradeshow floor. Plug on—we did, but this year we got by with a little help from our growing circle of friends in the wellness world.

The 2017 edition may have been the healthiest, most physically and emotionally rewarding IMEX yet, with nothing spared when it came to all things wellness-oriented. 

Because it’s all too easy to forget to look after yourself during show time, IMEX America 2017 made sure to provide plenty of opportunities for attendees to relax, refresh and revive, while also learning from experts in the field about innovative ways to infuse wellness programming into agendas. 

Attendees could check into the calming environs of the Be Well Lounge, spearheaded for another consecutive year by Lee Papa, mindfulness teacher, speaker and trainer extraordinaire. Papa ran enlightening and calming mindfulness meditation sessions from morning until 4 p.m. each day of the show, attracting an increasingly larger group of attendees each time, many wishing to finally learn what meditation is all about and how it can benefit them and their attendees. 

Meanwhile, in the room next door, the Be Well Lounge featured a dimly lit area with trickling fountains and cozy sofas for quiet reflection, as well as two complimentary massage stations sponsored by Hilton each day. 

Taking the time to unplug and create white space for brainstorming and insight was the theme of an MPI Keynote, “Activity Is Not Productivity,” presented by Juliet Funt, CEO of WhiteSpace at Work. According to Funt, white space—uncommitted, flexible time with no agenda—is the “golden key to your company’s success.”

Building on this, IMEX installed a dedicated new white space area in the Inspiration Hub that gave attendees the opportunity to sit and reflect on education sessions or simply brainstorm.

Further insights into wellness were delivered through the comprehensive education program, which had a dedicated health and well-being track. There were sessions on food trends, stress, meditation and mindfulness. Author and presenter Kathy Gruver delivered a session on “Navigating Nutrition: What to Add and Subtract for Better Health,” and Debra Zabloudil, founder of the Learning Studio, discussed “Mayhem or Mindfulness: Increase Your Emotional Intelligence and Balance.” Tahira Endean, event producer with #BCTECH Summit in Vancouver, British Columbia, regaled attendees with her presentation “Wellness and CSR in Events: 30-Plus Ideas.” (See Pick 3 sidebar.) 

On Wednesday Oct. 11, the popular #IMEXrun returned, with hundreds of individuals and teams taking on the 5-kilometer route along the Strip, starting at the crack of dawn.

“It’s widely recognized that physical activity contributes to well-being in both our business and personal lives,” said Carina Bauer, CEO of  the IMEX Group. “We’re finding that, increasingly, meeting professionals are keen to maintain healthy habits when traveling—as well as wanting to better understand how and what to incorporate into their own events and meetings.

A survey carried out by MPI for IMEX focused on stress at work. MPI queried a number of meeting professionals on their ability to unplug and found that while only 5 percent of the meeting professionals surveyed admit to feeling no stress at work, a huge 95 percent struggle to separate work life from personal life.

“There are many ways in which event organizers can integrate health and well-being into their activities, and they don’t have to blow the budget or completely overhaul their program,” said Dale Hudson, knowledge and events director of the IMEX Group. “Small, simple changes such as providing healthier snacks, opportunities for physical activity and time out for reflection are all that’s required—and, we believe, the various well-being initiatives at the show were inspiring.”

Walking away from IMEX with no shortage of wellness ideas to bring to the table for their next events, planners were hopeful, optimistic and eager to further the trend.