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Stimulating all senses for memorable events

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“Experiential” has been the buzzword for quite a few years now, but how does this look in practice?

Devin McLaughlin, Senior Marketing Research & Media Manager at Calgary TELUS Convention Centre, showed us how utlising new venue space to create unique and memorable events will give your delegates an educational experience they’ll never forget!

1. What did your session topic cover?

From event design to marketing campaigns, companies are increasingly becoming aware of the need to stand out from the crowd. While the ultimate goal is to be memorable and meaningful to your intended audience, focus and attention needs to be placed on the five senses as an opportunity to engage with your market and create an experience that will give you a better chance of being successful. Too often companies become complacent, stuck in a routine by continuing to follow through on past executions and strategies when in fact today’s environment is full of distractions that can ultimately lead to a competitor snatching up your business. A memorable destination/venue/association will translate into increased business. So the question becomes... can you be memorable? 

2. Which main challenges did the session address and attempt to solve?

A CWT Meetings and Events survey in 2015 stated that 78% of meeting planners found that engaging the senses resulted in a more memorable experience for their delegates. How does this apply to destinations? Venues? Association Executives? How can we become more experiential in our interactions with our clients? Is there a benefit to engaging the senses on future revenue and growth? Is it worth the extra effort in terms of planning and funding to engage the senses? 

3. What are the 3 main lessons you hope delegates learnt?

  1. Research shows that stimulating the senses influences the memory formulation and association with the related experience. While extremely valuable in influencing a desired feeling, the real-life practice and implementation of such activities is lacking. From the fonts that we use, the colours we choose, or the music we select; we are portraying a feeling whether we know it or not. Become aware of these influences and use them to your advantage. 
  2. Create partnerships that add value to your organisation. Entering a space that is not your core business can often result in a lack of understanding and execution that can be felt by the intended audience. Build partnerships that complement your activities and utilise their expertise that can enhance your offering.  
  3. Find ways to be more innovative and creative with all client touch points. Engage them differently at trade shows, during site visits, with your marketing/bid collateral. Break the mould on what is standard in the industry and find ways to make an impact that people will remember. 

4. How can these lessons inspire them to go further in their professional lives? How should someone implement this advice back at the office?

Creating a sensory experience has to be more than simply applying sensory elements, but one that ties back to the association/company’s goal. There need to be a reason for the activation; so think about the feeling and experience you want your client/delegate to have after immersing them in the event. Would having aerialists in a conference who’s theme is “Reaching Higher” be a great option? Do you find ways to alter the look of a room over time with an event that focuses on “transformation”? Creativity shows that you care, and does not always have to relate to an expensive budget. Think outside the box... and your clients will thank you with their loyalty. It takes time and effort to be different; however, the rewards are worth it:  

  • Start by setting up a meeting within your department. Sketch out all the areas that your clients interact with you. Phone Calls, Website, Site visits, Trade Shows. Brainstorm ways in which you can be different in each area.  
  • As a venue, take an inventory of possible areas in which are previously unused event space and find ways to engage those areas to become unique event spaces. In the case of Calgary… host a dinner in a public enclosed pedestrian walkway; create an art exhibition and reception in a previously unused corridor; use exhibition pre-function space as a wedding hall.
  • As a destination, re-evaluate aspects of a site tour to incorporate interactive elements. Instead of chauffeuring clients around in vehicles, use motorized scooters or horse-drawn carriages if it emphasises your city’s heritage. For food and beverage, get clients involved in the creation of their food, or mixing of their cocktails. Customized experiences create a “wow” factor that can elevate their experience with you. 
  • The opportunities are endless. Think differently... experiment with ideas... evaluate and revamp as needed. Clients will remember your effort, even if you try and fail then to stick with the ordinary. 

5. Do you recommend any educational resources that our delegates and readers can refer to if they’re interested in learning more about your session topic or area of expertise in general?

Check out this guide to multi-sensory experiences for a great overview of how to get started.

6. Where can we find out more about you and your work?

Devin McLaughlin 
Senior Marketing Research & Media Manager 
Calgary TELUS Convention Centre
devinm@calgary-convention.com 

Learn more about topics: Meetings management and design
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