‘Healthy’ is the new buzzword in the meetings and events sector. Over the past year, associations have become increasingly aware of the negative health impact of events and meetings:  of time-strapped delegates restricted  to eating unhealthy snacks and junk food and spending most of their day sitting down. More and more associations are therefore opting to meet at ‘healthier’ venues – those which avoid this common pitfall by making it convenient to exercise and eat well. Many venues, eager to get ahead of the curve, are responding by offering healthier menus and more physical activity at their events. In 2017, healthy meetings are likely to become the norm as more venues capitalize on this new emphasis on health.

The World Obesity Federation recently launched its Healthy Venues Award, the only formal accreditation recognising venues which strive to have a positive impact on delegates’ health. Venues are awarded Bronze, Silver or Gold status according to a list of criteria which awards points for promoting healthy eating and physical activity. For example, points can be earned by offering fruit, vegetables and salad on set menus; by providing flexible meeting environments which support mixed seating and standing; or by promoting active travel to the venue. The criteria for accreditation were developed by a group of experts in nutrition, physical activity and obesity prevention and are aligned with the targets set by the World Health Organisation. In February last year, the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow became the first venue to earn Healthy Venue Accreditation, being awarded the Silver Award. The Vancouver Convention Centre swiftly followed, earning the Bronze Award, and a number of other venues are in the process of being accredited.

There are countless advantages to Healthy Venue Accreditation, the most obvious being the health benefits. Sedentary behaviour is more prevalent than ever both in and out of the workplace and global obesity levels are worryingly high. It is vital that we offset the harmful and often life-threatening effects of unhealthy lifestyles, and encouraging exercise and healthy eating at meetings is an important first step in achieving this. By earning the Healthy Venue Award, a venue is playing its part in creating a healthier workforce.

Associations can play their part by choosing to meet at accredited Healthy Venues and to include a preference in your venue selection RFPs for Healthy Venues. In doing so, you will show that you care for the welfare of your delegates, in addition to making your meetings more productive and enjoyable. Giving delegates healthy options as part of the programme, opportunities to decrease their sedentary behaviour and a venue that is tailored to support these is the secret to a successful meeting. Attendees that feel energised will have a more positive memory of an event and will contribute more actively whilst there.

The start of a new year is a time to make positive changes. What better change to make than to help improve the health of your delegates – and make your events more memorable and engaging – by giving preference to venues with the Healthy Venue stamp of approval?

The Healthy Venues Award is part of the World Obesity Federation’s Action Initiative. To find out more, visit their website.