October 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio October 2003 Current Issue
October 2003 Tech filesPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:


BY Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM

Refreshing, creative and affordable snack ideas to offer between sessions

Perhaps there is a comfort in finding Danish and croissants at every mid-morning break and cookies or brownies in the afternoon. But is this really the best we can do? Or is it laziness that keeps pastries resplendent and baked goods irrefutable at break times?

Certainly, cost is a considerable factor. But similarly priced substitutes that are enjoyable, healthful and just as easy to obtain are only an inspiration away.

Do attendees really want to stick to their diets? Look at what’s snatched up in record time and what is left languishing on the buffet table.

Part of the problem is hotels and other facilities are used to providing those sugary carbs and they’re good at it. It takes some creativity to come up with wholesome alternatives that actually appeal to the crowd.

Ideally, breaks should include a mixture of healthful and decadent options. More importantly, a boring break that does not contribute to the meeting’s theme and objectives is a wasted opportunity.

In the aim to please dieters, too often the “good-for-you” options are low-fat, tasteless muffins that actually are full of sugar. Yet, savvy, health-conscious attendees know to avoid these disasters, and the less-informed attendees who think they should be choosing these over a Danish are bitterly disappointed and vow to never eat them again.

Why not take a lesson from spa menus, and emphasize color and texture? For instance, to accommodate the increasingly popular low-carb trend, offer an egg bar set up sundae-style with egg-white scoops, sundae dishes and an array of low carb, high-protein toppings, such as bacon, various cheeses, chives and salsa.

For groups interested in energy enhancement, give them the opportunity to mix up some smart blender drinks. Items to include are whole milk, honey, fruit pieces (bananas, kiwi, melon, pineapples and strawberries all work well), and vanilla or strawberry frozen yogurt. Also offer protein powder, ginseng and ginkgo biloba. For those who want a concoction of decadent ingredients, provide chocolate sauce, crushed Oreos and chocolate frozen yogurt or ice cream.

A blender break can double as a team-building function, in which groups square off and make drinks for their colleagues. Match colored smoothies to T-shirt colors, name the blenders and let the motors roar.

Many boutique hotels, like the W chain, have it right and are promoting uniquely ambient offerings. Their customized breaks address all the senses, with touches like mood music and evocative aromatherapy scents. Planners can bring this integrated approach to any venue with some ingenuity.

For instance, is your management team getting together for a serious and stressful planning meeting? Do attendees need to remain calm? Try a Japanese garden theme, with jasmine scenting the entrances and exits, Zen-inspired gardens on mini tables for attendees to design, relaxing existential Japanese music piped in and make-them-yourself fresh egg rolls with an array of ingredients to accommodate a variety of diet preferences.

Does the group need to feel invincible? Replace Zen gardens with Samurai gear the attendees can wear. Papyrus scrolls with recipe suggestions can help guide them toward creating the ultimate egg roll. The entire experience is interactive, fun and team oriented and will help keep the group working together and thinking strategically as a unit, even during supposed downtime.

Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM, is director of CME admin-istration for the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

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