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Take a Hike - Add a Little Nature to Your Next Event

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Have you ever gone to a conference held in a hotel?  You know, two or three days where you sleep, eat, learn, and possibly dance…all under the same roof? If you travel for work, you have probably had one of these experiences.  If you staff conferences, you have probably experienced this on several occasions.  Honestly, it is my least favorite part of attending or working at a conference.  There is something terribly exhausting about remaining in one large building for days.  It’s at once confining and unnerving.  Aggravating and draining.  Unpredictable and yet…somehow boring. 

In many ways, I think it’s similar to air travel.  You rush and you race to get where you are supposed to be...and then you wait.  You check in.  You wait.  You run to security and then wait in line.  You dash to your gate and then you sit.  When you finally get on your flight, you're both moving as fast as you probably will in your entire life, and sitting still.  Then the captain turns off the fasten seatbelt sign and you hurry to grab your bag, only to wait impatiently for the people in front of you to exit.  I don’t know how you feel…but the frustration I feel while trapped in a large hotel can only be described as…airport-y.

Last year I attended a conference (as an attendee) that was a bit outside of the norm.  It was held over a beautiful fall weekend in Central Illinois.  Rather than spend hour after hour in session rooms with the occasional doughnut and coffee break, we were encouraged to go outside, walk around a little, take in the scenery…even exercise a bit. Instead of banquet style dry chicken breasts, we were given gourmet lunches in boxes and then told to enjoy some time out by the little lake. It was a healthcare event and the organizers were working to integrate healthy living into their program.  We still had education sessions.  We still had networking time.  There was even a business meeting (though I didn’t attend).  None of the key elements of a traditional conference were missing.  They were all there, and I actually learned a lot.  And, I didn’t leave feeling like it would take me a day to recover.  Daylight…made the difference.

There was an event that I staffed last summer that was held in Uptown Normal.  The hotel where the event was held sat right in the heart of a pedestrian area. During the conference, attendee after attendee came up to our registration desk to state how much they loved the opportunity to walk around the city.  After a full day of educational sessions, people enjoyed putting on some sneakers and getting some fresh air. When I went for my little evening walk, I noticed our conference attendees sitting in outdoor cafes, window shopping, grabbing ice cream cones, and checking out the cityscape.  Instead of spending the evening up in their hotel rooms watching television, people were out and about.  They were socializing.  They were doing the type of networking that happens spontaneously but can be the most meaningful. 

If you are like me and find yourself starting to feel stir crazy after three days in a hotel/convention center, you may want to consider planning little breaks to help you recharge.  If you are staffing an event, this is sometimes impossible.  But, if you can get away, it can make a noticeable difference in your disposition.  I try to go for a little walk in the evenings before I go up to my room.  When the weather makes that impossible (Chicago winters), I like to find a lounge area or bench where I can sit and read a book…separate from where the conference is going on.grounds

Part of what I love about Harpole’s Heartland Lodge is how many opportunities it offers to get back to nature and remain relaxed…even in a conference setting.  The lodge offers the technology and meeting space that you need, set against a unique and picturesque backdrop that you’ll adore.  Attendees will love following educational/business sessions with walks on the scenic grounds or just lounging on the beautiful walk-out deck outside of the bedrooms. Or, everyone can take part in one of the lodge’s many activities like a hayride, bonfire, mushroom hunting, bird watching, or sporting clays.


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