Get Emotional: How to Engage the Senses at Events


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Tap into the human experience by creating event activations that directly affect a range of senses, like taste, smell, and touch.

Companies around the world are currently seeing one of the biggest shifts in employee demographics in recent history, with millennials expected to make up 50 percent of Asia’s workforce and about 40 percent of the global workforce by 2020. Event agencies are quickly discovering how to engage with the digital generation, coming up with inventive methods to inspire in a live environment.

“Our clients are no longer satisfied with traditional conference-styled experiences for their guests,” said Sarah Bailey, creative strategist at FreemanXP. “With a new generation of audiences attending their events, our clients are now pushing for alternative, more engaging formats and memorable moments in unique locations that create talk-ability and leave a lasting impression for guests.”

Finding new and creative ways to boost engagement among attendees has led to a variety of concepts being adopted in the conference room. “Selecting unconventional, unique spaces and venues that are flexible, and allow for quick changes in room setup, and even allow guests to break out into smaller groups and rearrange furniture, are good examples of how this trend is playing out,” Bailey added.

Global DMC event management company Pacific World recognises the importance of understanding delegate habits to shape the event experience. This is why it created its own Product Development Program to help create and execute unique engagement opportunities for clients of all backgrounds.

Selina Chavry, Pacific World’s global managing director, explained: “A team of 30 product developers monitor the industry trends in different regions globally and the specific needs of meeting and event planners. They will then design different experiences, always highlighting the emotional values that will help engage the participants with the company and/or the destinations they are visiting.”

Recently, event planners have found success in tapping further into the human experience, by creating activations that directly affect a range of senses, like taste, smell, and touch.

“Events are now a complete 360-degree experience, using all the senses to be able to tell the story,” said Belle Sparavec, head of experiential at Mango Sydney. “It’s not enough to create a beautifully styled space. An event experience begins from the first contact with guests, even before they walk through the door. This could include a hand-delivered invitation, a scent when they enter, or a visual spectacle.”

FreemanXP evoked mass audience engagement for an insurance client by giving each delegate a piece of wearable technology, called a Xyloband, which strapped around their wrist. As guests entered the main event space, the Xylobands illuminated in the brand’s colours for a choreographed light show, transforming the space.

Pacific World has applied multi-sensory experiences to incentive events as a way of demonstrating the culture and character of a particular destination. For a corporate group in Chengdu, China, the agency invited delegates to sample an array of authentic flavours at the Sichuan Cuisine Museum, a venue where groups can learn about Sichuan culture with their eyes, ears, and taste buds.

Attendees learned about the different degrees of spicy sauces used in traditional dishes – peering into giant, open-topped clay pots containing fermented chilies and beans  and tasting their way through the history of Sichuan cuisine.

“Using sensory experiences in events can create a more holistic and interactive approach to engaging guests,” Chavry added.

As millennials continue to pioneer the social-media age, they’re not just attendees, they’re storytellers, too. Offering experiences that can harness the senses and evoke emotional reaction is seen as an effective way to boost engagement and get everyone talking about an event.

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