There’s no denying it: Wellness has become a mega trend and the way people are incorporating it into their lives is ever-evolving. Consumers are adopting healthy habits both at home and on the road—including during conferences and other events. Following are some ways to help attendees stay well.
1. DESIGN TO ROOT FOR: Floral design is a major aspect of event planning, but the traditional setup of flowers in vases has moved toward a more sustainable, healthier approach—for people and the planet.
“I try to always use plants versus cut flowers. Plants provide oxygen in the space and live on,” said Deb Gee, experience designer for Lululemon Athletica. “I often choose potted plants because it’s something guests can also take home to make their own environment healthier."
Succulents, cacti, ferns, lavender and even herbs like rosemary and flowering thyme are all the rage, with designers creatively utilizing them for everything from table centerpieces to inventive decor for culinary spreads.
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2. VEGGING OUT: As people continue to incorporate a more plant-based diet, event catering is changing in innovative ways to meet the demand.
“Being vegetable-forward is an enormous trend for 2018 and beyond,” said Christine Couvelier, chef and global culinary trendologist and speaker. “This is vegetable cuisine without being expressly vegetarian or vegan.
"Think all methods of preparation to enhance flavor and texture—grilling, smoking, roasting, charring to achieve crispy, caramelized, colorful and flavorful vegetables," she added.
Vegetable charcuterie bars, roasted radishes and cauliflower rice give vegetables a starring role.
3. MOCK ME: Craft cocktails have been all the rage for years now, yet as people become more health-conscious, tastes are leaning toward non-alcoholic drinks or low-ABV (alcohol by volume) beverages.
Hence, expertly crafted mocktails are making a big splash in the beverage industry.
“It’s a very innovative time in the beverage world, and mocktail mixology is huge,” Couvelier said. “Think of it as fancy fizz innovation and soda as a cocktail with fresh juices, flavored teas, herbs and spices.”
“When planning an event, talk to beverage directors to customize mocktails” she said, citing examples such as delicious shrubs. “They’re created by preserving fruit with vinegar, sugar, aromatics and water.
“You could have a balsamic ginger shrub, for example,” Couvelier added.
She also cited several examples of creative mocktails, including one made with sage, white grapes, elderflower syrup, pear juice and soda.
International culinary maven Norema Salinas of Norema Salinas Catering in Madrid and Betty Zlatchin Catering in San Francisco is also a huge fan of well-crafted, non-alcoholic drinks to complement the bar program at events.
"The menu should always have interesting and healthy non-alcoholic drinks as alternatives," Salinas said. "One of the most colorful and delicious options is an agua fresca bar with Mexican fruit-flavored waters that can be handmade with watermelon, peach or strawberry, for example, and displayed in large apothecary jars.
"For mocktails, I like to offer things like a ginger lemongrass iced herbal tea with soda, a blackberry lemonade spritzer or a strawberry faux mojito—always using whatever fruit is in season, she added."
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4. TRAIN THE BRAIN: Mindfulness has made its way into the mainstream big time, driving one of the hottest trends at conferences: meditation.
Major meetings industry shows are giving planners a first-hand experience of how powerful and effective meditation can be for sharpening focus, relieving stress and cultivating creativity.
Two examples include IMEX America’s Be Well Lounge, where Lee Papa, mindfulness speaker, trainer and author, leads sessions, and the recent MPI Northern California Chapter’s Annual Conference and Expo (MPINCC ACE) at San Francisco's Moscone Center, where a morning meditation—complete with silent disco headsets—in a sunny foyer with floor-to-ceiling windows was well-attended.
The "Meditation spACE" was led by Nicki Clark, owner of Marin Outdoor Adventure.
“Studies are proving that mindfulness literally changes the brain,” Papa said. “People not only retain information better, but they sleep better and become more productive and creative.”
[Movers & Shakers Profile: Lee Papa, Mindfulness Speaker, Trainer, Author]
5. MOVE IT: An active lifestyle is a healthy lifestyle, and attendees are increasingly expecting to have options to exercise while traveling, including during the regular meeting agenda.
“We’ve done mindful walks where we go on a silent, single file excursion, taking attendees out into nature even if it’s in an urban setting,” said Lululemon’s Gee. “Depending on our audience, we may also do a curated run, and during one of our leadership conferences, we had 'Choose Your Own Adventure.'
“So [attendees] could choose to go for a run and a plunge, for example, the plunge being when they did a cannonball leap into a lake together at the end—quite a memorable way to finish,” she added.