Add Family Time to the Agenda

Ways to help your attendees have a “bleisure” getaway without distracting from your meeting’s goals.

Don’t know if you’ve heard, but it’s been a rough couple of years for most of us — so chances are, your attendees need a vacation.

That’s not what your meeting is for, of course. But after two years of curtailed leisure, can you blame people for wanting to tack a vacation onto your event? In fact, 89% of global business travelers say they want to add a vacation to their business trips sometime in 2022.

In an environment where people might be gun-shy about going to an out-of-town meeting, making your event conducive to “bleisure” — a combination of business and leisure — could be the deciding factor for whether your attendees register. You don’t have to create an event that specifically caters to plus-ones in order to plan a meeting that lets your attendees enjoy time with their loved ones in addition to your normal programming. Whether you want to incorporate date-night or kid-friendly activities into your meeting or just want to make it easier for attendees to plan a vacation around your event, here’s some tips on making it happen.

If you want to support family time outside of your meeting:

Schedule accordingly. Your meeting’s purpose comes first, but just as you schedule time for attendees’ leisure, you can accommodate time for attendees to be with their people. Consider capping meeting times earlier than you would normally, allowing a more generous lunch hour, and using flexible programming.

Find the right time slot. Look for other events in your destination that appeal to visitors. Festivals, concerts, community events, even street carnivals or other child-friendly programming — lean on what your counterparts in recreational events are planning, and let that guide the timing of your meeting. Then publicize that timing “coincidence” so your attendees know what’s available to them.

Promote nearby attractions. Just as you’d let attendees know about local restaurants and experiences in advance of your meeting, fill them in on things spouses and partners might appreciate. For example, you might not usually promote a restaurant known for its romantic setting to attendees of a business conference, but framing it as a date night for spouses and partners shows you’re thinking about your attendees’ needs holistically.

Know your venue. When sending an RFP, note that you want to accommodate people who aren’t there solely for the main event. Your hotel liaison can fill you in on attractions such as spas, pools, dining, and other draws that might lure attendees to bring a guest.

If you incorporate guests into your meeting:

State when it’s OK—or even preferred—to bring guests to sessions. If your meeting is explicitly geared toward building community, including among plus-ones, indicate in your materials which sessions are designed to further that goal. Similarly, if you have sessions meant to help spouses and partners better understand the field or industry the registered attendees are in, be clear about what those sessions will entail. And if a session isn’t appropriate for guests — say, it covers confidential information or is a networking period strictly for registered attendees — state that too. (All of this goes double if children are in the picture.)

Make it hands-on. Screen-printing workshops, a cooking or mixology lesson, a paint-and-sip session — all of these give guests something to do with others who aren’t attending the main programming. For people who want to get to know other plus-ones, it sets the stage to help them make deeper connections. And it’s a way for introverted partners to be involved in activities without forcing them into a situation that’s uncomfortable for them.

Use inclusive language. Avoid making assumptions about the gender of your attendees’ guests, or about anyone’s marital status. Stick with catchall terms such as “plus-one,” “partner,” and “guest.”

Make child care accessible. Having on-site child care is a huge draw to parents. Partnering with organizations such as Corporate Kids Events, Plus One Meetings, Destination Sitters, or other providers versed in event child care can streamline your involvement. Consider at least providing a supervised activity timed to a networking session. While parents are meeting their peers, younger children can watch a kids’ movie and teens and tweens can do an on-site scavenger hunt. After all, it’s not just the main attendees who need a break from the young ones—you’ll score big points by giving all parents a night off.