Health fairs have been a staple of many benefits and wellbeing programs for years. They offer employees the opportunity to gain a greater knowledge and understanding of the resources available to them through their employer and community. However, coordinating a fair can be labor intensive and planners are often surprised and understandably disappointed with low employee turnout. To make your efforts worthwhile and host an event your employees will show up to and truly enjoy attending, we’ve put together a list of our favorite strategies:
Stay on Target
As with any event, it’s important to have a goal or objective when organizing a health fair. What is it that you want to achieve and, most importantly, what type of experience do you want to create? Having a clear vision for what you want the experience to be will allow you to filter and prioritize your ideas as you begin planning. Here are some examples:
- To create a forum where employees get excited and have fun while engaging with their co-workers and community partners.
- To launch a new program/initiative/strategic design in a way that leaves employees feeling well-informed and empowered to participate in a meaningful way.
- To demonstrate our support of employee total wellbeing by offering a one-stop shop for accessing and getting familiar with all of the resources available to them.
- To empower our employees as health care consumers by connecting them with educators, tools and health screenings.
Get some of your employees on board or your wellbeing champions to help with the planning and socializing the value of the event among their colleagues.
When designing communications, be sure to keep them short and easy to read. Use many different avenues of promotion (signage, email, team meeting announcements, a “golden ticket” etc.). Create a hashtag for your event that wellbeing champions can use to post teasers about the event and so that employees can use it to post healthy selfies or share what they enjoyed about the event. Offer a few smaller activities leading up to the event, such as, a registration campaign for telehealth or bring in a smoothie bike.
A great way to stir up excitement is to give your health fair a theme. From superheroes to luaus, pick something fun that will resonate with your people. Share your theme with vendors that are attending as they may choose to spruce up their booth accordingly. For added excitement, tie your theme in with opportunities to reward participation and quiz knowledge acquired, taste test theme-related healthy foods, and practice new skills or sign up for employee resource groups. Here are a few ideas:
- Golf theme: Print out golf scorecards with a list of all the vendors and have putting greens set up for employees to get an entry into a raffle if the make a putt.
- Travel-themed fair: Print out passports and have each vendor stamp the passport when the employee stops at their booth. When the employee gets a certain amount of stamps, they’re entered into a raffle.
- A “bingo-like card” can work with any theme: Create cards that include various activities employees can participate in while they’re there. When they fill up their “bingo-like card”, they’re entered into a raffle.
There is nothing more uninviting than an uncomfortable space full of tables for folks to rush through and collect paper or bashfully face vendors ready to poke and prod them. Employees would much rather walk away with a greater understanding of their benefits and a trail mix of their own inventing than a stack of flyers and their BMI result. Perhaps even set up tables in the center for employees to compare notes and socialize or learn how to do chair yoga or enjoy live entertainment. Employees will be more likely to return the next heath fair if they get a warm welcome and leave feeling more confident and cared for.
Select the Right Vendors
When taking a look at vendors, consider your goal. Variety is always good, but decide whether a really wide variety will serve or detract from your goal and your employees’ experience. Additionally, consider the number of vendors you will invite. Going back to the idea of a traditional fair, you want a combination of vendors and attractions. If you are working with limited space and one of your main goals is to create an interactive experience or to foster employee interaction, perhaps a few less vendors and a few additional attractions (like bag toss or a photo booth) would make more sense. Here are some ideas for selecting vendors:
- Existing Organizational Partners
- Medical, dental, vision, 401k, Employee Assistance Program, wellbeing vendors
- Physical Wellbeing
- Local gyms, dance studios, martial arts, physical therapists, nutritionist, catering company or culinary arts teacher, massage therapist, chiropractor, running/shoe store, health food store, hospital, farmers market
- Community Wellbeing
- Non-profit chapters, civic organizations, mental health department, pet care providers, parks and recreation, police department, fire department, commuter resources, library, a table about your own corporate giving and volunteerism opportunities
- Financial Wellbeing
- Financial planners, banks and credit unions, perks/discount programs, holiday saving clubs, non-profit financial educators, Costco memberships
- Social Wellbeing
- Employee resource groups, intramural sports, book clubs, parenting groups, Chamber of Commerce, young professionals group, gardening club
- Purpose/Career Wellbeing
- Leadership or personal development experts, internal programs that promote core values and training opportunities, local universities or libraries
As a parting tip, consider how you can gauge employees’ satisfaction and how you might extend the impact of the fair beyond the day it’s held. Ask them to take a short quiz, pin a post it of what they got out of it on the exit door, or set up a touch screen smiley/happiness meter. What is going to help people retain what they learned and prompt people to take action? What’s going to keep the momentum going once everyone has packed up and gone home? Create a communication plan to follow up on the day’s events and ensure there are calls to action baked into the design of your fair. Ask an employee of each department to serve as a health fair ambassador to check in with participants and reinforce post-event action items.
Identifying your purpose and then creating buzz with the right mix of vendors and attractions will get you well on your way to an event your employees will love!