The Five Senses of Meetings: Make Your Meeting Super Sonic

Haven’t you heard? Planners can move beyond music to make your meeting an auditory experience.

Mic check? Done. AV setup? Done. Music selected? Done.

Your sonic setup can begin and end there—but it doesn’t have to. Music helps set the tone for an event, but the auditory world goes beyond music. Sound is just as powerful as sight and smell when it comes to triggering emotions and forming memories, and using it in ways other than the expected can help you shape your meetings. Here are some ideas to inspire the audio at your next event.

For ways to bring the other senses into your events, visit the other articles in this series: sight, touch, taste, and smell.

Pairing sound with visuals

GE and The New York Times Magazine partnered to create an aural experience to go with a special issue of the magazine. They aimed to help readers match images with vivid, engaging sounds, such as the glass-breaking crackle of a lava flow from Kilauea and honking horns and shouting street vendors in Lagos, Nigeria. If you’re introducing new machinery or tech at a conference, try pairing images with the sounds it makes when operating.

Take a bath

Sound baths have gained popularity as a meditative aural experience. You can do the real thing—Toronto General Hospital recently held a sound bath performance as part of its Music Can Heal concert series. Or borrow from the phenomenon by creating a sound loop that you can stream throughout the meeting. For a tourism event, try evoking the feeling of travel with the sound of jet engines, church bells, taxis, and a street festival.

Branding with sound

Beyond commercial jingles, brands are experimenting with sound—BMW, for example, partnered with Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer to craft sounds for its notably mute electric cars. A sonic brand can be as simple as a few notes that, over time, become associated with a company through marketing. (Mastercard recently took the plunge into sonic branding with an album featuring tracks inspired by the Mastercard melody, familiar to us through their commercials.) Give your meeting a sonic brand by choosing a special sound to indicate the start of a meeting or end of a break period. Think: the sound of clinking glass for a meeting of beverage professionals, or chirping crickets for a gathering of conservationists.

An audio adventure

Sound has the power to transform a space and transport listeners to another dimension. Take a cue from Séance, the “intense sonic performance” that was a hit at the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Guests sat in a small, dark space and listened to an immersive audio experience that had them believe a séance was happening in their midst. In a meeting, try giving guests headphones and streaming sounds related to the meeting’s purpose to set the tone—a medical conference might use a soundscape that incorporates sounds health professionals hear through a stethoscope, for example.

ASMR in person

ASMR—or autonomous sensory meridian response—is a physiological response to sensory cues. In recent years, it has gained popularity through “whisper videos” online, but it’s a hit at events, too. Try holding a live ASMR performance at your event that immerses guests in the experience, like the sound of rustling pages and clicking keys at a literary event.

Incite virtual conversations

Clubhouse is a virtual water cooler, where users can wander “hallways” and step in on meeting rooms to engage in audio-only conversations. Professionals tout it as a networking hub. For virtual meetings, the app can be a great way to keep the conversation going outside of videoconferences and breakout sessions.