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By Lisa Hadfield
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Organisers have an important role to play in ensuring delegates feel at ease both before and during conferences designing for health and wellbeing is crucial. Let’s take a look at what you can do to support delegates who suffer from anxiety before meetings.
Supporting delegates’ mental wellbeing
Mental health in the workplace is becoming increasingly common with many organisations. According to Mind, one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. 5.9 in every 100 people suffer from generalised anxiety disorder, making it one of the most common types of mental health problems in the UK. If a conference room has 1,000 attendees, this equates to 59 suffering with a form of anxiety.
Conferences can be quite intimidating environments for some and so easing concerns early is key. Here are eight ways in which you can provide your delegates’ peace of mind before the meeting.
1. Getting the agenda right
Sharing a thorough agenda is just one way organisers can ease concerns of social anxiety before the event. Providing a thorough delegate pack allows people to prepare in advance. Highlighting the programmes, the pack should excite delegates and make them look forward to attending.
If there is a Q&A session, consider ways to allow people to submit questions anonymously. We’ve worked with a number of organisers to allow private questions and there are a number of apps you can use, such as Slido. These methods can ensure those who don’t like to speak in public can still benefit from the Q&A session.
2. Food for thought
Food should also be considered. At Warwick Conferences, we have seen first-hand how dietary requirements have evolved over the last decade. Delegates with special dietary requirements can often feel dread about whether they will be able to eat at a conference. This worry only increases if the conference takes place over a number of days.
Sharing the menu beforehand, and ensuring delegates can submit dietary requirements, is key. There have been many occasions where we have spoken with a number of delegates about their food requirements and tailored individual menus to their needs. It helps make a huge difference to their experience and the feedback we receive backs this up.
Travel preparations can also be a cause for anxiety before meetings. Disruption of normal routines, unfamiliar surroundings and presence of strangers contribute to the disruption of stable mental health during travel.
Organisers and venues can support delegates by offering clear directions and reassurance about car park spaces. Warwick Conferences has clear signage throughout the campus and the reception desk can be called for support in arriving.
4. Allow delegates to connect beforehand
For delegates arriving on their own, conferences can be daunting. Apps, such as Attendee Hub, allow delegates to load a profile and start connecting before the conference. It isn’t for everyone, but making connections before attending can support those attending alone.
5. Dress codes
This may not seem essential, but stating the dress code can really support delegates, especially where evening entertainment is provided. There is nothing worse than being over or under-dressed and preparing outfits can cause a lot of anxiety. Making the dress code clear - even where there isn’t one - can really support your delegates.
6. Getting the environment right
For those who are struggling with ill health during an event, holding a free meeting room to provide a safe haven can really help. If there is an area where delegates can get some headspace, it is recommended that this is private and well signposted.
Warwick Conferences has a number of different spaces available to ensure delegates are comfortable. The breakout rooms are perfect for taking phone calls, while its creative spaces come with sofas, meaning delegates can relax and feel more comfortable. It also has unique Kitchen spaces, so delegates can feel more at home. Exploring outdoor spaces and incorporating fresh air can also support delegate mental health and wellbeing.
7. Make evening entertainment optional
The agenda should also focus on the evening entertainment, if applicable. There appears to be a misconception that evening entertainment is limited to networking or drinking alcohol. This alone can allow anxiety to build, especially for more introverted delegates.
Ideally, multiple options should be offered and speaking to your conference venue beforehand can ensure these are developed with the delegates in mind. Any entertainment and networking should be made optional. Never force your delegates to participate in something that could trigger their mental health issues.
8. Keep delegates physically active
Delegates following strict lifestyles can often feel that attending a two-day conference can negatively impact their progress. Understanding these lifestyles beforehand means organisers can find ways to support delegates maintain their physical health during their stay.
Awareness of mental health at work continues to rise. Transferring this to conferences and meetings is important and we are already seeing a lot of good ways organisers are doing this. We have seen companies ask our chefs to produce personalised recipes for those with unique dietary requirements and the feedback is always extremely positive.
Providing clear communication to delegates beforehand can really support those who struggle with anxiety. Small details can mean so much and we can support you in ensuring you make the most out of your experience at Warwick Conferences. How do you support your delegates before a conference? Get in touch with a member of the team to discuss with us.
Lisa has a wealth of experience across the hospitality and events industry sector spanning over 20 years. Lisa has been with Warwick Conferences for 8 years with her current role focused on managing relationships with key agency partners to ensure client retention, in addition to exploiting new business opportunities across our venue portfolio.
L dot M dot Hadfield at warwick dot ac dot uk