Whatever the season, the battle of the thermostat continues in almost every ballroom. Add a blustery winter day to the mix and you can count on complaints heating up.
For in-person events happening in late 2021 where the final leaves are dropping from the trees and the temperature is dropping quickly, here are some tips to keep groups comfortable and attentive.
Request a specific room temperature in your meeting specs and review it with your hotel engineering team during the pre-conference meeting. Also, ask the property how quickly each room can respond to thermostat dial-ups and dial-downs. That way you can be more confident in your answers to questions in the event that attendees are clutching their bare arms. And speaking of bare-armed attendees: place a kind reminder in pre-meeting communications regarding the often-turbulent temperatures in event spaces, and suggest people bring along a cardigan or light sweater.
Coming in from the Cold
Welcome your attendees with a transition area near your registration desk. Include coat racks, benches or chairs, and boot/umbrella storage to help attendees comfortably remove their outer layers—and get your program started off on the right foot (or boot).
Offering amenities such as hand sanitizer, unscented lotion, and nice facial tissues are inexpensive ways to help attendees to maintain health security and also fight any chill so they can be undistracted as they learn and interact.
Warm from the Inside Out
My favorite way to warm up the group is through creative food and beverage.
Breakfast: If you are limited in budget, adding oatmeal to a continental breakfast buffet will keep attendees toasty and full around the morning session. Enhancements like cinnamon, brown sugar, raisons, cranberries, nuts, assorted dried fruit, or even chocolate shavings also add nice color to your buffet.
Beverage Stations: Simply adding pumpkin spice, cinnamon, or peppermint creamer to your morning coffee break can cheer up a chilly guest.
To take it a step further, test out one of these festive interactive stations:
- Apple cider featuring cinnamon stirring sticks. This station pairs wonderfully with a pork entrée.
- Egg nog accompanied by a selection of gingerbread and sugar cookies.
- Hot chocolate with topping options—whipped cream, peppermint sticks, Neapolitan marshmallows, and more. Offering a selection of flavored cocoa is even better. Options include white, dark, or milk chocolate, or Mexican hot chocolate. This station can be an afternoon break in itself.
Lunch: Seasonal soups and build-your-own chili stations are a hearty way to keep the cold away at lunch. A chili cook-off can also be a constructive team-builder while feeding your attendees and fulfilling your food and beverage minimum.
You can also work with your chef to incorporate spices proven to get the blood moving and warm the consumer. Cinnamon, cumin, and cayenne are great options. Add these ingredient details to the food identification cards to further the effect—mind over matter.
With social distancing likely necessary for the foreseeable future, cavernous and sterile room sets will make attendees feel icy inside and out. Use warm lighting and thoughtful room configurations to create a comfortable atmosphere. You can create various lounge areas with soft seating, pillows, and small blankets to be inviting informal break locations where attendees can sit in small groups and converse.
Breaking a Sweat
Give attendees frequent opportunties to keep their blood circulating; let them get up and walk around for 10 minutes every hour. And if time and budget allow, add a quick morning yoga session prior to each meeting day.
If your budget is flexible, custom-logo items such pashminas, jackets, pullovers, or small blankets serve to keep attendees comfortable on site, unify the group, and spread the brand post-meeting.
However, the best gift for your attendees’ personal comfort might be this item, created by a team of MIT Engineering students: Wave2, a silver cuff bracelet that acts as a personal heating and cooling system. The MIT team founded Embr Labs to pursue a crowdfunded version of the device a few years back, and it took off.
Meghan Palm Mayer, CMP, HMCC, is founder and chief experience designer for Meetings and Events Group (MEG) in Chicago.