Meetings for the Senses

A new white paper shows how various visual and sound components enhance an attendee’s meeting experience. Now is the time for association meeting planners to design more sensory-rich event experiences.

For most, including myself, concerts are usually defined by two components: sound and stage setup. (OK, the former is usually more important.) There are some shows you don’t expect a lot from visually, but you just know the artist will sound great and draw you in and give you that experience you’re looking for. But there are also those shows where you expect those over-the-top visual elements (e.g., lighting, dancing, and so forth) and the music can at times seem like a secondary component. But, no matter what, at the end of the show, you want to leave feeling like those elements contributed positively to your overall experience.

This got me thinking about the role of audio and visual components in meetings and events. How many times have you been in a poorly lit meeting room with one person talking in front of a screen? It’s likely you left that session feeling a little underwhelmed. So, imagine if meeting planners started thinking more strategically about their meetings’ audiovisual components. A new white paper by PSAV Presentation Services and BrainStrength Systems shows that doing so can maximize attendee learning and help planners produce memorable meetings.

Imagine if meeting planners started thinking more strategically about their meetings’ audiovisual components.

“Often, AV is just an item on a checklist—simply a logistic that must be handled,” said PSAV’s Vice President of Industry Relations Meg Fasy in a press release. “If, instead, it is used intentionally to work with the brain’s capacities, audiovisual technologies can produce specific and targeted effects that maximize learning and memory, convey your message in memorable ways, and produce the meeting outcomes you desire.” Here’s a closer look at some of the white paper’s findings:

Visuals and Learning

Research shows that if information is only presented through a speaker talking, listeners only remember 10 percent of what the speaker said three days later. When pictures—not only text on a screen—are added, that number goes up to 65 percent.

Placement of these visuals is also important. While most association meetings place screens directly in front of the room, this white paper shows that posters or screens at the side of the room are more powerful in increasing attendee absorption. Looking to get a discussion going? Researcher say screens should be placed at eye level. And if you just want attendees to absorb and retain the message, the screens should be placed above eye level.

Screen size and placement also makes a difference. The white paper suggests subtracting four feet from the ceiling height to determine the largest screen size possible for the room. Additionally, no audience member should be seated further back than eight times the screen width to ensure proper sight lines.

Audio and Learning

According to the white paper, one way planners can add to the learning process is to add music to their meetings. “Music can energize, relax, and increase productivity,” says the report. “It can boost intelligence, engage emotions, and support memory formation.”

Many association meetings incorporate music into their events—and for good reason, as it aids in the learning process. Research shows that rhythm plays a role in the effects of music. For example, if you’re trying to create a relaxing mood for attendees, keep music to 40 to 60 beats per minute. But if you’re trying to keep attendees alert, aim for 60 to 70 beats per minute. Or if you’re trying to get attendees to move from one session to another or exit the expo hall, find a song that’s between 70 and 120 beats.

And for more takeaways from the white paper, check out this infographic they put together.

Besides making sure there’s a screen and projector in each session room, how does your association consider sound and visual components as it plans its meetings and events?


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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