Our predictions for 2020 in the world of conferences and events – Health and Wellbeing

Our predictions for 2020 in the world of conferences and events – Health and Wellbeing

Health and Wellbeing

Hello again.So it’s 2020… How did that happen? About 5 years ago all the organizations we were working with were rightly looking forward to 2020 and doing their five-year plans. Quite a lot of them were understandably talking about 2020 vision.

2020 Vision – What does it even mean?!

At a pub quiz we were at recently, one of the questions was ‘what does the 20/20 in 20/20 vision mean’? Do you know? We didn’t. Well apparently, “normal” vision is 20/20. The test subject sees the same line of letters at 20 feet that a person with “normal” vision sees at 20 feet. So 20 /40 means the test subject sees the same line of letters at 20 ft that a normal person sees at 40. Got it? No? Me neither. So the word you’re looking for is …..anyway….

This month we have been looking ahead into the new year and reviewing what we think will be at the forefront of peoples’ minds at work in 2020. And also how we are going to focus on these subjects when we are designing conferences this year and beyond.

So far we’ve covered:

  • The environment and global concerns.
  • How diversity, equity and inclusion is the way for fair-minded companies.

This week we are going to consider:

  • Physical and mental health as a vital consideration for both employers and employees.

And next week we will be looking at:

  • How life-long learning both in and out of work is essential

So let’s think about physical and mental health in terms of what you can expect at a conference where Purple Monster have had some influence in design and delivery.

When we first started doing big conferences for BIG companies some 20 years ago now, the emphasis was always on experiences and getting people to do something rather than just be talked at for three days. Those principles haven’t changed but what is much more nuanced nowadays is the conscious thinking that goes on behind the experience that the attendee has at the conference. We always say that our main job is ‘to look after the delegate experience’ from the minute they walk into the venue until they leave at the end of the day or week.

Now we cannot be made responsible for each individual’s mental health or indeed their physical conditioning but as thoughtful conference designers we do want to create an experience that will be beneficial to people in terms of their physical and mental well- being. So here’s a few pointers…

1. Try and do something that is physically energising without being exclusive to others

We once worked with an executive team who were very competitive amongst themselves and were a great bunch of people to work with.

When we arrived at the venue we were told that we were going to start Monday morning with a five mile run, Tuesday morning was a ten mile cycle ride and Wednesday morning was a swim. Wow. Now we like exercise and understand that as a team they really bonded over this physical start to the day but I always wondered what it was like when a new member joined the team.

Did they feel compelled to join in? What would happen if they weren’t a physical type? It was also rather exclusive. It didn’t mean to be but it was. If anyone suffered an injury or was dealing with any physical impairment then their place in the team was ‘diminished’ by their inability to join in.

But physical well-being is terribly important, so it is always worth considering leaving time in the agenda for people to start their day in the way they want to.

  • Leave space in the agenda in the morning and at the close of the day for people to fit in their own way to re-energize.
  • Hopefully your venue will have one but if not, try and find access to a good gym. People like the gym and the benefits, of course, are enormous.
  • Consider planning physical sessions with a sponsor. Allow one team member to take the lead when planning a run or a swim or for that matter a cycle ride. And ensure that all levels are catered for.
  • Offer a gentler alternative. Yoga or Pilates is a great way to start the day. It doesn’t suit everyone but for the less physically competitive it can be a great way in to physical wellness.
  • Always ensure that there is plenty of water on hand throughout the days (in a reusable bottle of course)

2. Design sessions that have mental well-being at the heart

Recently we were part of a conference and the whole venue made it a restful experience. The venue planner had very thoughtfully booked the venue right on the seafront overlooking a beautiful Mediterranean bay.

We know not every conference or meeting can be in such beautiful surroundings but this definitely had a gentler quality to it and we were assured by them that the rate was not significantly worse than for a swanky city hotel with all the accompanying urban expense.

  • Factor in well being sessions into the design. As well as the physical, include mentally stimulating options as a way to kick off your days.
  • Look outside of the ordinary. There are wonderful restful options out there like Street Wisdom and Zentangle. They take the same amount of time as a run or gym session and will appeal to the less physically inclined colleagues.
  • There a thousands of brilliant TED talks around well being and mental wellness. Include these in your conference design. Either share links to them or base your actual sessions around them.

3. Appetite and Refreshment

We talked last week around ensuring that diet and dietary requirements are taken into account. There are other considerations too though:

  • Ensure the venue and conference has ‘healthy’ snacks and that the breaks are not just a long line of people queuing for one coffee machine.
  • Carbohydrates can make you sleepy. Lots of fresh produce is a good plan.
  • Make breaks in the day significantly long enough to allow people to recharge their batteries. Don’t rush them back into session after a 30 minute lunch break because you have to let Kris have the full 2 hours for their strategic ideation presentation
  • We are not the arbiters of moderation and certainly are not advocating temperance at all of our meetings but please do consider the availability of alcohol throughout your meeting. Don’t have a Gala evening and then expect everyone to show up again at 0800 the next morning for Kris’s strategic ideation presentation. Plan accordingly 😊

So there are just a few examples of the way in which we can impact the health and wellness of our delegates at conferences. It is also a responsibility as good humans, let alone colleagues and workmates to also keep an eye out for those who look as if they are having a tough time or are struggling with a physical condition that is having an impact on their health. We are not suggesting intrusion or intervention but please just continue to question and ask your colleagues if they are doing ok and be prepared to listen when they answer.

Oh, and stop sidelining Kris…what’s the matter with two hours on strategic ideation?

Do you want to make your 2020 events more conscious and mindful whilst not compromising on the engagement, fun and impact?

Download our updated planning canvas or get in touch with the Monster team to help you!

Our predictions for 2020 in the world of conferences and events – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Our predictions for 2020 in the world of conferences and events – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Inclusion, Equity and Diversity

Happy New Year! Can we still say that on the 14th January? I hope so.

If you missed us last week you missed a treat. Go on tell them… anyway it’s good to have you back and it’s good to be sharing our thoughts for what we think 2020 may hold.

What is reflecting the zeitgeist? Come to think of it what is the zeitgeist? Well it’s literally the German for time and spirit as you know 😊 but the dictionary definition is “the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time”.

So, in terms of business and people in business, what is the defining mood of our particular time?

Last week we mentioned how conversations have started to shift to talk more about: the environment and global concerns.

  • How life-long learning both in and out of work is essential.
  • How diversity, equity and inclusion has become more than just a fad but a non-negotiable with forward thinking companies across the globe.
  • Physical and mental health is thankfully now in the mainstream too and is now a vital consideration for both employers and employees.

About three years ago, two unconnected but similarly thoughtful clients and friends suggested we should look at Unconscious Bias. It was at that point that we were introduced to the wonderful book Blind Spot by Mazharin Banaji and Antony Greenwald.

The brilliant sub-heading or subtitle of the book is ‘The hidden biases of good people’ and it set us off a’ thinking.

Obviously, we all think we are good people and to a greater or lesser extent we all demonstrate that ‘goodness’ all the time through our actions, opinions and even personal thoughts. But what if we weren’t quite as equitable and fair-minded as we thought. Well, read the book.. follow some of the practices… take a Harvard IAT test.. and you will find for yourself just how ‘enlightened’ and ‘good’ you are.

And please be assured that this is not meant as a gauntlet thrown down by the blameless, faultless, guilt free perfect beings at Purple Monster.

On the contrary, looking into this work has thrown up our own doubts, biases, micro inequities and highlighted times when we have neglected to be as inclusive as we should.

In a way that is the very point of considering this subject in the first place. Because of our history, geography and upbringing we have been broadly brought up in a time where inequities have existed in the workplace and where a ‘traditional’ look at the world is the norm.

It is a constant challenge to ourselves and to everyone to ‘check our privilege’ and consciously take time to consider a new and more diverse approach.

1. Ensure all panels, speakers, contributors have diverse backgrounds and thinking

So we thought that we should take the same approach to planning meetings and conferences and apply this lens to looking at the way we shape our designs.

We are very fortunate to work with some very forward thinking and high calibre people. The two clients and friends that we mentioned earlier are examples of this.

One is a senior executive with a very large multinational company who has chosen to follow a D&I agenda fully and encouraged us to do the same.

The other is a life force, also performing a vital role in a global company. Open minded, thoughtful, kind and the sort of teacher who we know we will be talking about as an influence on our lives for years to come.

They come from very different backgrounds, are based in different locations and are scrupulously fair when planning events. They are ideal candidates to be on panels and to be strong contributors when running sessions at conferences and meetings. Yet we have seen them both take a back-seat approach to this and, in the interest of creating sessions that are more inclusive, instead encourage others to be the ones upfront.

Consider these questions when planning whose voice is upfront at your conference.

  • Have you consciously considered who should be on your panel?
  • Do you operate a fair pay policy for speakers?
  • Are all speakers getting paid in accordance with their experience?
  • Do your speakers have a fair gender split?
  • Are various levels of the organisation represented?
  • Are you hearing from your suppliers, partners and customers?
  • Is the ethnicity of your speaker group representative of your workforce and supplier base?

There is nothing that represents retrograde thinking in a company or organisation like a panel that is ‘male, pale and stale’.

We don’t want to offend anyone by using that phrase but we do ask you to consider what is meant by it and what a panel looks like when it is populated by only one homogenous group of people.

There is so much more that can be learned from people with differing views, backgrounds and perspectives. And if you plan speakers and experts in advance, then you will avoid any last minute rush for someone to ‘balance it out’.

2. Be mindful about designing sessions that include everyone

Many years ago we ran a session that required people to consider their sporting achievements at school or since.

At the end of the session one of the participants approached us and said that the question was very hard for her to answer as she was in a wheelchair and had little access to sport when she was growing up.

It was an example of not thinking in an inclusive way about the impact of our questions. We hadn’t meant to exclude her but because of our own unconscious sloppy thinking we had done.

Thankfully in the time that has elapsed, participation for people with mobility issues has increased enormously and we hope there is a greater understanding for people who have both visible and invisible impairments. Our questions have altered as a result.

Consider the less than obvious:

  • How far are the distances between sessions?
  • Is there good access for people with mobility issues?
  • Is the lighting in your room conducive to running a productive session?
  • Does the music really need to be that loud?
  • Are icebreaker sessions considerate of the introverted?
  • Ask people confidentially, during the conference, what adjustments would help make them able to contribute fully

3. Food is important

Ask any conference organiser to show you their excel spreadsheet of the different dietary requirements and your mind will boggle at the differences that people require when planning their diet.

Some people have religious observances that need to be respected, some people have serious allergies, others have made dietary choices that mean that certain foods are excluded.

Whatever the reasons there are many things that have to be considered when planning the food and beverages at any meeting or conference.
Consider these possibilities?

  • Before booking your venue, really check with them how flexible their dietary offer is
  • Ask the venue to provide fresh fruit as well as other more traditional sweet snacks
  • Ensure there is always plenty of water on offer
  • Consider the impact of a ‘heavy’ lunch on afternoon sessions
  • Respect people’s choices around diet
  • Here we have provided just 3 examples of ways in which we can make our meetings and conferences more thoughtful but there will be hundreds more examples which we’d be very happy for you to share with us.

Please tweet us with ways in which you believe we can be more inclusive when planning our meetings. @purplemonsteruk

Starting with our investigations into our own biases and then continuing to make some of our decisions more conscious means that our meetings and conferences can all be a little more thoughtful and hopefully inclusive in 2020 and beyond.

Do you want to make your 2020 events more conscious and mindful whilst not compromising on the engagement, fun and impact?

Download our updated planning canvas or get in touch with the Monster team to help you!

Our predictions for 2020 in the world of conferences and events – environmental sustainability

Our predictions for 2020 in the world of conferences and events – environmental sustainability

Our predictions for 2020 in the world of conferences and events

  • Events need to consider their environmental impact
  • They are genuinely diverse and inclusive
  • Delegates are supported to look after their health and wellbeing

Happy New Year! It’s January and that always makes us think about the roman god Janus after whom January is named.

He was represented as having two faces. One looking back at the old year and one looking forward to the new.

So, as we gear up to take on 2020, we have been reflecting on what we learnt in 2019 and what we think 2020 might hold in the year ahead.

During 2019 conversations noticeably shifted. We talked to leaders across the globe in a wide range of industries and the same themes were discussed time and time again.

Environmental consideration went mainstream, learning was paramount, diversity became a strategic imperative and wellbeing including mental health started to become a vital consideration for both employers and employees.

Our prediction for the conferences of 2020 and beyond is that delegates will expect that

  • Events they attend consider their environmental impact
  • They are genuinely diverse and inclusive
  • That their desire to look after their health and wellbeing is supported.

We hope that individuals start to question and challenge events that don’t take this approach and over time, it becomes the norm rather than the exception.

As an organisation who is passionate about these subjects we want to promote this as the default approach for any business event.

So we have updated our conference planning canvas to not only provide a framework for strategically planning the event but advice on what practical steps you can take in order to reduce environmental impact, promote diversity and inclusivity and improve on health and wellbeing.

Download our updated canvas with our checklist as to how to be more conscious and mindful in your event planning.

Reducing the Environmental Impact of your event.


This week we are providing tips and advice for how to reduce the environmental impact of an event. Over the next few weeks we will also explore the other elements.

We attend many, many events during a year and in 2019 we started to notice that organisations and even individuals who make a lot of effort to be environmentally conscious seem to forget this approach when it comes to running internal events.

Plastic water bottles, disposable coffee cups, masses of printing and waste, excess flights and car travel are all the default and while it is often not intentional, these areas are simply just not on the radar when it comes to the planning and execution of event delivery.

So here are a couple of things that will help to create about a more environmentally friendly approach to conference planning.

1. Take active steps to promote responsible transport options.

At Purple Monster we have always been advocates for face to face engagement. There’s nothing like the energy and impact of a face to face conference in terms of the memories that one can create. But, the environmental cost of flying delegates all over the world does need to be considered.

Ways you can reduce this impact:

  • Use systems to calculate the ideal location resulting in the least travel for all your attendees.
  • Challenge the attendee list – the fewer people attending, the less travel. Can you do one main event then a series of more local events to capture more people but reduce travel?
  • Use carbon offsetting for all flights that do need to be made.
  • For events not requiring flights, promote public and shared transport options over individual car travel. Consider offering train timetables and shuttle bus information in joining instructions. Make it easy for people to carshare or even not drive!
  • And finally – avoid people travelling at all – it is possible to create highly engaging and interactive virtual events.

2. Provide alternative options to single use plastic water bottles and disposable coffee cups.

People are becoming much more responsible and using refillable water bottles and cups in normal everyday life but it is easy for conference providers to forget this commitment when at a business event for a few days. Ensure single use bottles, disposable cups, plastic cutlery etc are simply not available at your event. Insist that your venue takes responsibility for this and make it part of your policy that you won’t book venues that use such materials.

3. Demonstrate steps to reduce waste i.e remove venue notepads from tables, minimal merchandise.

Think back to the last event you attended either inside your organisation or maybe an external event. How much ‘stuff’ were you given? Did you use the paper that was on your table or did you just doodle on it?

Be considerate around what needs printing – can agendas, slides and information be provided on an app or website rather than physically handed out?
Ask your venue to remove any notepads or printed material from the rooms you are using.
Be thoughtful when deciding merchandise or giveaways. We are not saying ban it all together but do people really need another branded pen or stress toy?

Everything that occurs in a large-scale event has some level of environmental as well as a pecuniary impact.

With a more conscious approach to the planning of your conferences we can make huge reductions in those environmental and budgetary costs, with little or no visible effect on the delegate experience.

With the devastating environmental disasters that are occurring all over the globe as we write this then it seems a good time to look back and forward like Janus to see what we can do to make a difference.

Remember 10 years ago we were not really recycling at all but it is common practice now. So we can do it. Think about it next time you are planning a conference and meeting.

Do you want to make your 2020 events more conscious and mindful whilst not compromising on the engagement, fun and impact?

Download our updated planning canvas or get in touch with the Monster team to help you!

What a Wonderful Year!

What a Wonderful Year!

We proudly look back at some of the highlights of this year. 2019 has been a great success for us as a company.

Travelling all around the world delivering and facilitating large scale events for some great organisations.

There was a wedding and some good solid team building done over a bread mill too. Let us share our year….


As every year kicks off we are optimistic and full of hope for the year ahead. This year was no different. We knew we had some lovely people to work with in the coming months including the lovely Mike from By this River and the year started with trips to Chicago and Vienna for an upcoming conference in March.


New experiences for a few of us this month. Ukraine in the winter and Azerbaijan at any time. Both were great. We love Ukraine and are proud of our association with One Philosophy Group of Companies. It was they who introduced us to the SHE Congress in Baku where Alana and Robin had an inspirational couple of days.


A precious week in Vienna with our friends at Mondelez and the opportunity to work with the priceless Betsey and the equally marvellous Kate and of course, the brilliant MCL Create. Making lifelong friendships with these two and others is a privilege.


Growth and Agile was a theme this year. Alan and Robin Let it Grow in Munich for a week and then encouraged others to Breathe in Dubrovnik for another great conference.

Big up to the clients’ desire to have a ‘white evening’. Sometimes you just gotta go with it…..


This month we learnt that Camels don’t like Belvita but love the waste Oreos. Robin just loves them all. Trips to Bahrain and a post Eurovision trip to Israel was a highlight. Not sure Alana enjoyed the theme as much as Robin!


The passports were laid down for a few months and we started on some thoughtful work on being an Ally. We are so lucky to be able to work with such great thinkers across the world. And we introduced these little treasures…


A big month for PM. Alana got married. The lovely Rob has been in all our lives for a few years now but at last she’s made an honest man of him. Many happy years ahead you stars. And what a privilege to go Team USA’s Olympic headquarters to finish of the month in Colorado Springs


We had holidays. Yay. Well some of us did. Alan still had to do a lightning trip to Palo Alto to help some new Ukrainian friends before completing the story in Kyiv in September. A quiet month for once. Time to do some baking with Bread for Life!!!


We took some of our own medicine and spent a week working on ourselves. Illuminating 😊. We finished the month back in Kyiv…well not Kyiv. On the drive there we were informed we were 30 miles from the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Eek.


It got busy again with beautiful scenes of Birmingham for a joint series of events with the good people at Dialectyx and a TED style event in central Birmingham for the Mondelez family.


Our third time at the brilliant Employer Leadership Summit exploring Trust in Kyiv and a huge thanks to Oksana and Natalia for their continued friendship. A great finish to the month with a collaborative effort with Lane 4 and a DIY opera at the Opera House in Valencia. If you’ve not been, go. It’s amazing.


As long as we’ve got coffee and a smile everything will be ok. We’re mindful of the support given to us by so many and thankful for the friendships that we continue to make and cherish every year.

Have a wonderful Holiday season and if you celebrate it, then we wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Lots of love

The Monster Team

A day in the life of a Monster – Danielle Thompson

A day in the life of a Monster – Danielle Thompson

Danielle describes her typical working day as the business brains behind a highly creative organisation. 

“Working in a small, creative organisation means that my working day can shift in an hour from strategizing with a HR Director in the US to working out how we order printer toner (ordering printer toner it turns out, is much more complicated than designing a global engagement approach!)

6am – Get up and get to the gym for a spinning class at 6.30am. Everyday, I wake up and try and convince myself I don’t need to go but if I don’t think about it and just get on with it before I know it, it’s over and I have that lovely smug feeling that my exercise for the day is done

7.30am – After a shower at the gym I head to their café to take advantage of the free breakfast club. My routine here is to sit with a coffee going through emails, updating my trello board on my phone and generally just working out what my day will look like.

8am – Head back home to walk my dog, Max. We live in a very rural area so I take him for a good walk around the Herefordshire countryside.

8.45am – Get logged on in my office which is in a shed at the top of my garden. We use Microsoft teams to stay in touch with each other so I can see who else in the team is online and ask how they are this morning. When the general morning chatter is finished, I get stuck into a proposal which needs to be finished and sent off before the US wake up later on.

11am – Proposal is done and sent off to the client, so now I switch to researching and scribbling out ideas for a new proposition we are working on. In a creative company like ours, we are never short of ideas but the main issue is working out which ones will be appealing to our clients and how we can deliver it. This idea, I am particularly excited about as it is centred around environmental sustainability and diversity, two causes I am passionate about.

12.15 – Robin calls me on Teams as he is thinks the scope I have developed yesterday for a new project is too broad and we may need to narrow our focus a little. We decide to break down the scope so that the client can determine what elements are most important to them. We also spend a bit of time comparing the weather in the West of England (where I live) to the East of England (where Robin is). We decide that we have both got better weather than the Midlands (where the office is)

12.45 – I realised this morning that my fridge is pretty much empty so I drop a message our to say that I’ll be away for a bit as I need to go and do my food shopping. Experience has taught us that the key to making flexibility work is communication and trust so I just let people know I won’t be around for a bit but I’ve got my phone if needed.

2pm – Back from the shops and can get some lunch now. Take Max out again quickly.

2.45pm – We are working on several projects in the US at the moment so afternoons tend to get a bit busier when they start work. A call for 4pm has been shifted back to 6pm and another client has approved a proposal so I need to write a statement of work for it. Although not the most fun job in the world, it is important as this lays out what we will do on this project and getting it right at this stage means that everybody is clear on who is doing what, timescales etc.

4.30pm – As my call has been pushed back I’ve got a bit of time to do some more research on our new project. I mock up a landing page and start writing some marketing copy. I know I will have to play around with it for a bit, but it feels like it is starting to form something really interesting. I send a what’s app message to a friend of mine to see if I can meet up with her to pick her brains on sustainability when I’m in the office next week.

6pm. Jump on Zoom to talk to the Head of Talent and Engagement at a client we have just started working with in the US. It’s a complex piece of work and as it’s a new client then we need to spend some time understanding the culture and mechanics of the organisation. So far though the signs are looking good. We spend the first 10 minutes of the call laughing at each other as we are both working from home, wearing a hoodie with a dog barking in the background! A pretty typical Purple Monster call then!

After some general silliness and introducing of dogs over the airwaves we work through our proposal, get her thoughts and feedback so that we can proceed to contract stage. So much of our job is about relationships and we have mastered the art of building relationships over video calls and this call is no exception.

7.15pm – Log off and tidy up the mess I have managed to create and head into the house. My husband has just got back as well so between us we make dinner and generally catch up on the day.

At some point in the evening there is a flurry of chat on the Monster What’s app group as Alan has managed to loose directions to the hotel he is staying in for an event tomorrow, so is asking if anyone knows where he needs to be. Once the initial panic is over and he is safely in a taxi to the hotel, there follows a long silly chat with the now frequently used hashtag #travelswithalan.”

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