Coming to Their Senses: Creating Multisensory Events

Attendees don’t learn only by listening and watching. That’s why a conference experience that stimulates all five senses just makes sense.

The way to a more immersive meeting experience for your attendees is to create multisensory events, says new research by London & Partners and CWT Meetings & Events.

Even though just 27 percent of the 600 event organizers surveyed think sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste are being used effectively by the industry, 78 percent believe multisensory events deliver more memorable and creative experiences for attendees. In addition, 42 percent say sensory activations can help events stand out from the competition.

“It’s clear that the industry can do more to fully embrace sensory experiences in order to deliver unforgettable experiences for event goers. In a world full of distractions, the events world needs to be more creative in its approach and not stick with the status quo because it is easier to achieve,” said Tracy Halliwell, director of business tourism and major events at London & Partners, in a press release. “Our senses are the cornerstone of our experiences, and by producing events that incorporate sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch effectively, the messages conveyed to delegates at conferences, meetings, and tradeshows will become much more memorable and impactful.”

The survey also revealed that event planners think sight is being used most effectively, while they identified senses of smell and touch as being poorly integrated into events. In addition, those surveyed said the top-three things keeping them from delivering sensory-packed events were lack of budget (43 percent), lack of time (26 percent), and difficulty finding sensory content suitable for their events and attendees (24 percent).

Where to Begin

The good news is that there are a lot of ways for associations to get started on creating a multisensory experience. In a blog post last week on Meetings & Conventions, Chris FJ Lynn, vice president of sales and marketing for North America and emerging markets at London & Partners, offered tips on how to make an event appeal to all senses. Among his suggestions: Add color to create the right mood, or boost sensory experiences by switching off one of your attendees’ dominant senses. One example he gives is to have your attendees eat in the dark to enhance their sense of taste.

Last year, Anne Thornley-Brown shared seven multisensory event ideas on Cvent’s Event Planning blog based on her attendance at an Incentiveworks meeting. One was to have giant board games, puzzles, and brain teasers scattered throughout the meeting space to help attendees have fun and network in a more relaxed environment. Another was to create designated art spaces. Incentiveworks featured interactive paint lounges complete with easels, as well as musicians and dancers to provide entertainment when attendees arrived.

Even convention and visitors bureaus are beginning to see the appeal of multisensory venues in wooing meeting planners. For example, Choose Chicago has a page on its website dedicated to event ideas and venues that will engage attendees’ five senses.

One multisensory idea I particularly like, which I’ve mentioned in the past, is the idea of having attendees cook together. They get to work together and have fun, and they end up with a product to taste and enjoy. And there’s no better way to bond than over food and drink.

One word of caution: Make sure you don’t go overboard and give your attendees sensory overload.

Have you planned or attended a multisensory event? Share your experience in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

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

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