Unseen Potential: Engaging Multiple Senses at Events

Sure, appealing to people’s senses sounds like a no-brainer method for improving a trade show or speaker series. But have you pondered how much neurological research tells us about ourselves when it comes to being engaged at one? According to the Sense of Smell Institute, people retain about half of the visual images they see after three months, but can remarkably remember more than 65% of what they smelled even after a year has passed! A closer look at the link between sight and taste reveals that people have reported identical desserts to taste up to 10% sweeter on white plates than black, for example. These statistics don’t limit how our senses can boost your brand; whether orchestrating a speaker series or designing a five-star cuisine, sensory cues can play a vital role in fostering the experience you’re aiming for.

Since it is holiday season, let’s check out how the outdoor-living retail chain Gander Mountain had integrated these ideas into their store model two winters ago. It began by blending its outdoorsy label with the holiday spirit by creating crafts with children (no, not just for parents needing to desperately find hiking presents), introducing a chirping “naughty or nice detector,” as well as propping up a green screen for family and pet photos. Would you be surprised to learn that foot traffic and online media mentions grew up to ten times at each store?

Other renowned companies have grappled with the idea of enhancing experiences by triggering new neurons—each in a characteristic way. Here are some examples:

  • Sight: New Zealand’s Auricle Sonic Arts Gallery introduced its signature dining experience thanks to Chef Alex Davies, wine writer Jo Burzynska, and visual artist Toshi Endo. Each of the seven courses was paired with specific compositions and live visuals throughout the evening, engaging guests in a whirl of aromas, flavors, colors, and sounds
  • Sound: The sound engineering giant Dolby staged a speaker series about the history of sound with pristine and carefully-selected audio samples that followed the chronology of the talk— murmuring mammals and grazing tectonic plates resonated throughout the hall
  • Smells: LinkedIn transformed London’s ExCel event center into a model city square for its annual flagship event last year. The 1,500 invited clients found themselves chatting among life-sized buildings, cabs, pubs, and shops. The aromas and ambience of city life could even be perceived throughout the day to immerse the international guest list in the character of the capital

Of course, becoming sensually successful doesn’t have to require hefty measures like these. Experiment and find out!