BARCELONA – If you want to make your events more interesting, engaging, and productive, you need to start tweaking them to appeal to all five of your attendees’ senses.
That’s according to Dr. Rob Davidson who spoke at IBTM World 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. He said going into 2020, as an event professional you should be thinking about what your guests will hear, see, feel, taste, and smell at your next event if you want to make it one to remember.
“Everything I’m telling you here today is based on neuroscience and cognitive psychology,” he said. “And what we know from science is that the more you stimulate different parts of your brain, the more vivid and memorable an experience or event is. And leaving with a positive memory is exactly what you want your [attendees] to do after they depart your show.”
According to Davidson, event professionals tend to only focus on two senses when planning meetings and events – sight and sound.
“But what I want to emphasize here is it’s about going beyond audio and visual to make your event a true experience,” he said. “As an event organizer, you should be thinking about what will your participants hear? What will they smell? What will the feel and taste? You need to be aware of all of these things. Think about how many senses you can stimulate positively.”
Here are Davidson’s tips on how you can stimulate all five senses.
Davidson said on the whole, event professionals are good at incorporating interesting visual aspects into their events.
“But we can definitely do more,” he said bringing up a photo of a standard hotel meeting room. “So I’m sorry to the venues in the room if your meeting rooms look like this. But you can do better.”
He said to make your standard business meeting more exciting, use colour and natural daylight to your advantage.
“These days, people expect visual stimulation and excitement,” he said referring to a meeting room with more colour, lots of windows, and different colours couches and chairs for sitting. “Think soft colours and soft furniture. Something that’s more intimate and personal.”
To know if you’re doing a good job with your visuals, he said, “people will walk in and take their phone out to take photos.”
Once again, Davidson said event professionals are good with sound.
“These days, the person at the back of the room can hear just as well as the person at the front of the room,” he said. “But once again, we can do more than just making sure the acoustics are good.”
Davidson said event planners need to start thinking about the soundtrack of their event, like the soundtrack of a movie.
“What we don’t use enough in business events is music,” he explained. “Music is something that touches our soul and is something very deep in us. One way to stimulate this sense is to make more use of music. Use music to get your participants into the mood and frame of mind. If it a strategy meeting, and you want them to be alert, having some pump up music will help them. Or if it’s a brainstorm meeting, have classical music in the background, for example.”
He also said to play with sound, many conferences now are becoming silent. So instead of one speaker in one room with a microphone, some companies today are opting to have multiple speakers in one room, with a microphone that links directly to headphones.
“So there will be speakers at each corner of the room speaking, and participants wear headphones and can go and listen to whomever they want,” he said. “It gives people choice, and now you can use one room, instead of multiple rooms.”
The sense of touch is very important when it comes to events, Davidson stressed.
For this, Davidson advised to think about carpeting/flooring, as well as conference chairs.
“Try and experiment with seating,” he said. “There’s no rule that says all chairs have to be the same at a conference or meeting. Be mindful of this, and make them comfortable.”
Same goes with flooring, make sure the carpet is plush and not hard against your attendees’ feet, especially if they will be on their feet for long hours.
The sense of smell is the one sense connected directly to the limbic system – which is the part of the brain that deals with emotions and memories, said Davidson.
“It is such a powerful sense,” he said. “If you meet someone with your ex’s cologne or perfume, you think about them immediately. Research also shows that people can recall only 50% of visual images after 3 months, but even after a year 65% of people can recall a scent. The sense of smell is powerful and long-lasting.”
Davidson to help your next event, try looking into scent marketing.
“We don’t need to bombard your participants with strong smells,” he said. “That’s wrong. But there are ways companies can help you put a smell into a room discreetly. People would not be conscious of it, but it would stay with them.”.
And finally, taste, said Davidson, is probably the sense you want to pay the most attention to.
“If there’s one complaint you’re going to get about your conference or event, it’s going to be about food,” he said. “So you need to pay attention to your food and get it right.”
Davidson said to pay attention to food trends (for example, right now brain food and plant-based meals are very hot) and make sure you use your location to your advantage.
“Be mindful of your location, and pick dishes that are unique to where you are,” he said.
If you have a busy conference and know your guests will be running from booth to booth, or session to session, make sure you have grab and go options, because not everyone will have time to sit and eat, he said.
“And always pay attention to how your food looks,” he said. “Because we really do eat with our eyes.”