Rob Davidson says our five senses can act as biological learning portals for conferences
There’s a new buzzword going around: multi-sensory events – conferences designed to appeal to the full range of feelings and senses of participants, not just their eyes and ears.
Neuroscience and cognitive psychology research have uncovered the amazing power of our senses, and evidence suggests that by harnessing the latest scientific understanding of how our senses work, meeting planners can create far more effective and engaging experiences for attendees. And not only are multi-sensory events more enjoyable, they’re also much more likely to teach something to be remembered.
Through providing your participants with immersive experiences, incorporating sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, the messages conveyed to them at conferences become much more memorable. Or, as the authors of the BrainStrength Systems/ PSAV report, Audiovisual Technologies and Adult Learning in Meetings put it: “The more of the brain that’s activated, the more associations there are to be made, and the stronger and more widespread the learning will be”.
Our five senses act as biological learning portals, with all information and stimuli entering our brains through those doors. So the more of the brain that’s activated, the more easily learning occurs.
Some planners are starting to play with fragrances to create the right mood to match the objectives of their events. Studies have found that lemon scents increase concentration, while lavender and orange scents can be used to reduce anxiety levels (which is why you find them used in dentists’ waiting rooms).
For multi-sensory events, you can even match the venue’s colour scheme with your meeting’s objectives. According to psychologists at the University of British Columbia, people in a room painted red performed much better at skills that required accuracy than people in a blue room. But those in the blue room outperformed the red group on creative tasks requiring imagination by twice as much.
Meeting consultant Kare Anderson has spoken of “a planned sequence of memorable moments that involve the five senses”, from the feeling of stepping on to a plush carpet in the registration area and the comfort of the chairs to the smell of the coffee in the refreshment areas.
She recommends you see your meeting as a theatrical production, considering the attendees’ senses at every moment of the event.
Designing multi-sensory events is a completely new way of looking at human beings and how they respond to sensory inputs. Put simply, by Antonio Domasio, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of California: “We are not thinking beings that feel; we are feeling beings that think”.