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Meetings & Events Targeting all Five Senses

December 9, 2015

Our world has become much smaller. Thanks to the Internet and social media we are connected now more than ever before. Information is available at our fingertips. With 3-D, video and on-demand entertainment, our expectations are much more selective. We now live in an experience economy. So how does a meeting planner incorporate a vibrant, living participant experience in both meetings and events? One of the most effective ways is through something called sensory design.

While it may sound like a new buzz phrase, it’s really not. Sensory design simply means designing a meeting or event to touch most, if not all of our five senses. When a meeting or event is designed with attention to all five senses there is a certain unity that takes place amongst attendees, a harmony that leads to a rhythmic flow of inspired communication. Why? Well according to research at Yale University, all learning enters through the senses. Humans use the five senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell to communicate. It may seem like a simple process to see a familiar face or hear a presentation, but in actuality there are many processes taking place at the sensory level in order to receive those messages. Each sense provides different information that is combined and interpreted by our brain. Consider your reaction when you think about a holiday dinner. Your sense of smell is activated with the scent of your favorite holiday meal cooking. Next, hearing comes alive as your mind recalls the sound of holiday music and rising voices. Taste buds may begin to salivate as you continue to think through the dinner. Sight becomes engaged once you envision all the activity associated with the dinner and finally touch takes hold when your mind begins to feel the warmth and textures surrounding the dinner itself, from the table setting, to the glassware, to the heat of the meal.

When all five senses are touched at some level, our entire being becomes engaged, and from this complete part of ourselves, our emotions are heightened, thoughts fire more rapidly and creativity begins to flow. Marketers know this; they understand the appeal of the whole person experience. When you get down to it – marketing is at the foundation of all things – meetings and events included. An incentive event is marketing the appeal of success; a meeting may be marketing the goals of the company while a social event is appealing to the pure enjoyment and desire to attend again and again. Incorporating all five senses, at least on some level, will go a long way in effective marketing. Retailers do this all the time, scents of evergreen and cedar evoke feelings of winter ideal for winter clothes buying, and fresh citrus and/or sunscreen heat up the desire for summer styles. How often have you walked into Costco and felt an overwhelming urge to head to the bakery – which of course sits in the far right corner of the store conveniently past every thing you never realized you needed!

Think about all the elements that go into the planning process and how these can appeal to the senses to encourage greater engagement:
➢ Invitations
➢ Venue
➢ Décor
➢ Food and Beverage
➢ A/V
➢ Entertainment
➢ Speakers

Taste – With food and beverage centered on theme or destination relying on items such as summer fresh, southern comfort, indigenous herbs or exotic spices, the sense of taste can come alive with the vibe of an area.

Hearing – Through entertainment or incorporating the natural sounds of the destination itself, the sense of hearing becomes engaged with sounds that echo the environment.

Touch – The use of various textures in décor combined with food and beverage comes into play when attempting to appeal to this sense. Rustic wood, family style tables for a warm Italian or Southern country dinner or chrome high tops with simple geometric lines for an edgy, energetic vibe.

Sight – While the entire arrangement can clearly target sight the use of light will heighten this sense and ultimately tap other senses through the emotion ambient lighting can touch.

Smell – The sense containing perhaps the most impact is that of smell. Hotels clearly understand the power of appealing to this sense. Most resorts infuse their lobbies with aromas of citrus, floral or even fireplace comfort to inspire an emotional appeal. So why stop there? We’ve known for years that certain scents strengthen memory and attention, aid in relaxation and even increase appetites. Incorporating scent into meetings and events can be the perfect way to please the senses, capture the destination’s ambiance, and up the participant experience.

Meetings that deliberately touch all five senses: taste, hearing, touch, sight and smell have the ability to grasp attention, increase recall, and inspire conversation thus creating a truly memorable experience. When you begin planning your next meeting and start the site selection process, take a good look around, think about sensory design and how you can best play to each of the five senses. For help locating a destination that makes it easy to appeal to any of the senses, turn to Visit Newport Beach. As a destination specialist and partner, Visit Newport Beach can show you all the Newport Beach has to offer and help you find the ideal location for your group.

Written by Visit Newport Beach Meetings

As a not-for-profit Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), Visit Newport Beach provides destination expertise, customized site visits, strong partnerships and resources tailored specifically to the needs of meeting planners and their clients.

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