25 Oct Engaging the Five Senses in Event Planning
Because companies are always looking for ways to break away from the pack, marketing plans often include creative strategies on how to communicate a company’s message. We see this in advertising, social media, product displays and other promotional and marketing tactics. A company’s ultimate goal is to create a meaningful and memorable impact on their audience in the hope that the message influences how a person thinks and behaves towards an organization, brand, product or service.
However, because it brings you face-to-face with your audience, there is no other part of the marketing matrix as powerful as an event. The key is building your event or meeting to achieve maximum effect, and the best way to accomplish this is by engaging the five senses in event planning.
- Use Visual Stimulation to Create a Great First Impression
Because it is important to make a strong visual impression the minute the attendees arrive at an event, research has found that sight is the one sense most effectively used by meeting planners.
Although the visual component of event design may be obvious, be sure not to overlook it. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that sight creates a sense of ‘awe’ in people. It causes them to work more collaboratively and form stronger groups and communities. Because ‘awe’ is the ultimate ‘collective’ emotion, it motivates people to do things that enhance the greater good.
- How You Hear the Message Depends on Its Delivery
Successful meetings are those with a compelling agenda, great speakers, and engaged participants. But those elements just don’t happen by themselves. You’ll need to first explore the purpose of the event, and understand whom you are trying to reach.
The best strategy is to understand your audience and speak to their specific needs. Apps, social media, and other interactive devices are great for those who favor gathering information this way, while some may prefer hard copies of materials.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for message delivery. Spend the time understanding how to reach your audience. This will help you to be successful at ensuring participant engagement.
- Reinforce Your Message with Taste
If you’re faced with planning an event, taste should be a top consideration. It is the one sense that’s most widely activated given the majority of programs serves some form of food and beverage. When designing your menu, think through how the menu can reinforce your message.
- Activate the Sense of Smell
Activating the sense of smell is perhaps the biggest challenge when creating an event using all five senses, and ultimately one of the least incorporated.
According to the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) Smell Report, smells evoke strong emotional reactions, connecting to memory in a very intense way.
However, it must be noted that a scent can be very personal. What you view as pleasant may send another person running out the door, so take the time to find a scent that will more likely appeal to all participants.
- Please Touch!
Although often overlooked, touch is a fundamental part of every event. After all, the first thing you do when you meet a new person is to shake their hand, or, in the case of an old acquaintance, you greet by embracing them. Unlike the other senses, touch is a sensation that covers your entire body.
So how do you layer the sense of touch into an event? Think through every detail of how a participant will interact with this event. When selecting a room layout for an opening reception, consider replacing the highboy tables with couches, end tables, and ottomans, which, in turn, encourages better networking between participants. When designing an event for a high-tech client, consider using beanbag chairs or video rocking chairs during the session.
Recent trends suggest that meeting participants want opportunities to be physically active and move during an event. Consider adding Ping-Pong tables to the coffee break stations, or include a climbing wall for a quick exercise break before the next session starts.
Engaging the five senses in event planning is a growing trend in the meetings industry. Research proves that activating your participants’ five senses helps you to stand out from the competition and gives you a greater chance of having your message heard, understood and remembered. By providing your attendees with fully immersive experiences – incorporating sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch –the messages conveyed to them at conferences, product launches, and product presentations become much more memorable.
Jennifer D. Collins is the founder, President, and CEO of JDC Events. She is a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), Digital Events Strategist (DES) and well known events industry thought leader. She is Vice Chair of the Board for WBEC Metro NY and WBEC Greater DMV, a member of the Women’s Presidents Organization (WPO), and the Author of Events Spark Change: A Guide to Designing Powerful and Engaging Events.