There have been so many times where I’ve been sitting in my conference seat after lunch and find myself feeling groggy and tired and on occasion no matter how engaging the speaker I’m battling to keep my eyes open.
As an event organiser you definitely don’t want your conference, training day or workshop attendees to be falling asleep on you. You want them fully engaged in what’s going-on at your event. They should be taking in the information that the presenters want to impart to make for a successful and engaging event. But why do we all get tired after lunch? Is it because some of the attendees didn’t have a good night’s sleep?
That may be the case for some attendees but the majority of people at your event are feeling groggy because of what they had for lunch. The way in which our bodies work makes us feel tired after a meal. Blood is diverted from the brain to assist the stomach in digesting food. Your body also releases Melatonin and Serotonin after eating food. These hormones make us feel sleepy. In this post I’m going to offer you some of the tactics I’ve used over the years to make sure that attendees at the events I organise are alert and energetic after a tasty lunch.
The Night Before
If you have any control over the activities that your attendees are going to be involved in the night before the event, any planned activities by you should end at a reasonable time. Planning big opening parties that end at 12 midnight is not going to bode well for attendees having enough energy to be able to stay alert and fully comprehend all the information that they need to take in the next day.
It’s The Menu Darling!
When we are planning an event the menu always comes up for discussion. Well, it should! Often delegate day rates offer a choice of items for both breakfast and lunch. You should make sure that the type of breakfast you are offering is going to provide nutritional energy and not just a coffee spike for the attendees. Stick to Wholegrains and avoid processed sugars. Serving Grits or Porridge, fruit and other wholegrain cereal products like Multigrain Bagels that are high energy and more easily digestible foods - as opposed to meat-heavy breakfasts - are going to provide the basis for a day’s diet that can alleviate that drowsy afternoon feeling.
And don’t forget the coffee break. Always avoid energy slump-inducers such as high flour and sugar offerings - croissants, muffins, buns and cakes. Try offering a choice of light filled wholegrain sandwich quarters, mini-bagels with light veggie-based or non-fat meat fillings such as turkey. Fruit is also a very good option. Biscuits are high in flour, sugar and fat so this is a no-no!
A Light Lunch
The lunch menu is even more important. If attendees eat too many calories - more than 800 – they will become sluggish, and might even fall asleep. Remember that the larger the meal, the more effort the body needs to make to digest it. Ergo – the groggier attendees will feel. Also remember that serving alcohol at lunch will also make attendees feel drowsy. When arranging your lunch menu, you should be opting for a healthy lunch. It should be a lunch that helps keep attendees blood sugar levels - the body's fuel system which draws on glucose – stable. Ask the caterer what the calorie count of a heathy lunch is likely to be. You should be aiming to provide a 600 to 800 calories lunch. Items that are high in fat and processed sugars are big in calories and are going to take their toll on the digestive cycle making your attendees really feel that after lunch slump. Avoid carb-high foods such as white bread, white pasta and potatoes. Chicken and turkey breast and tuna all contain low carbohydrates, are high in protein and low-fat. Brown rice salads are tasty and can be filled with low carbohydrate veggies. Foods that are high in iron like chicken and turkey as well as some vegetables such as spinach help alleviate the groggy feeling. Make sure that coffee is available at lunchtime too. Caffeine aids in digestion and makes us alert!
For the last few years, caffeine is being delivered in all sorts of convenient and tasty ways. It is always a good idea to offer the option of energy drinks and energy ‘shots’ to attendees going back into the conference area or training room. You may even want to provide these on a table in the back of the conference room or on the tables. But make sure that water is also available as caffeine does make people feel dehydrated. Dehydration will make us feel uncomfortable and sleepy.
After Lunch Activities
When the attendees arrive back in their seats it always a good idea to activate them physically to aid in the digestion of their lunch. You may be fortunate in that there is a 15 minute walk from the lunch area back into the conference hall, but this is not usually the case. An activity that is physical and that lasts 10 minutes will aid in making sure your attendees are alert for the rest of the day’s programme. For conferences you can create fun activities. I’ve used a seat swapping exercise after lunch. It provides people with something to do physically as well as network and chat with people they may not have meet earlier in the day.
For example, the ‘who don’t you know’ game. Each attendee is tasked with collecting three business cards and getting to know those people. Attendees move around the room and seat themselves next to strangers and chat – a kind of speed dating exercise. Do 3 minutes per meeting.
For training days and workshops try and keep any physical ‘show and tell’ sessions to start right after lunch. Having people on their feet doing stuff is going to aid in digestion and keep them energised for the rest of the afternoon. There are many more ideas you as a creative event organisers can dream up, but importantly it is about providing a ten to fifteen minute window for physical interactions that aid in digestion.
As an event organiser you always have to prove your worth to your client. What better way than making sure that event attendees are fully engaged and alert throughout the day’s proceedings. Remember that these suggestions can be modified to suit each event environment and event type but the fundamentals stay the same. In essence plan a decent diet and make sure that you activate attendees after lunch.