How to use sound to enhance an event experience

3 mins

How to plan and deliver a high-quality sound experience for your event

Group Travel Manager & PA to Ray Bloom, Sarah Shepherd, shares her key takeaways from Designing events for the ears, an education session from IMEX’s EduMonday in 2020

Sound effects us in many ways

This session was a 360-degree immersion into how music and sound can affect us behaviorally, physiologically and emotionally. Sound is an often-neglected part of the event design process, and this session felt like stumbling upon a goldmine of opportunity.

Music effects your brain and your emotions more than you think!

Jonny and The Sound Agency are advocates for a planned “sonic experience” within events. A statistic that struck me was that music affects 70% of our emotions. By including sound in your event, you can take attendees on an emotional journey of discovery that will resonate long after the event is over. How amazing would it be if, after your event, your attendees were already looking forward to their next engagement with your brand?

Be the song in their head and allow your event to become a memory of recognition, association and power.

Music notation

Using sounds in events generates recognition and association, making it a powerful influencer of attendees’ emotions

Making sound a part of your brand is all about recognition and association, that’s how it becomes so powerful. If you have an audio identity, people start associating it with your brand. Once it’s lodged into people’s brains, it becomes a selling point for your brand. Jonny uses the examples of Intel and SNCF, who’s sonic logos are immediately recognizable.

Sound at events needs to be considered and designed

You can’t just put sound into a noisy environment, as this is like “putting icing on mud”! It’ll sound bad and people will want to leave. There is a deeper process for planning music into your events, made up of four components: acoustics, noise sources, sound system, content. Not only should you consider the type of sound you are putting into your events, but how the infrastructure of your venue can support (or hinder) your efforts.

Podcasts are increasing in popularity, making sound the perfect communication channel

Podcasts are one of the fastest growing businesses in the world right now, and it’s not by coincidence. Reaching your audience through their ears fosters a greater emotional connection and brand recognition.

If you’re working to build your brand or increase awareness of your event, consider how you could use podcasts in your marketing strategy. Maybe you could start your own or explore advertising options with other established podcasts with a similar target audience profile.

Bring the sounds of nature into your events

Nature sounds like birdsong can psychologically impact the way we take in information. For instance, humans have learnt that when the birds stop singing something may be about to go wrong. Hearing birdsong puts you in a body-relaxed mind-alert state, which is great for thinking and focusing the mind. You may use birdsong in your event to recreate this mind-body state.


Make sure the sound you use in networking spaces isn’t distracting

Jonny believes it’s important to create a space where it’s easy for attendees to understand what’s going on, giving them a large amount of cognitive ability.

Firstly, you should investigate creating as much sound absorption in the walls as possible, to prevent chatter from becoming overwhelming. The sound content that would work well for this situation would be biophilic (birdsong, water sounds, etc.). You’d want to avoid music with lyrics because that becomes an extra voice to compete with and is distracting.

Sound design

Is it harder to make an impact with sound in a louder trade show environment?

He explained that the loudness of a tradeshow will affect people. But the question is whether you can suppress some of that sound, and can you employ the better acoustic elements of branding? I loved the idea of adapting the physical features already in the area to absorb sound or amplify it, such as printing signage on acoustic material.

Jonny’s session was a rallying cry for the industry to pay a little more attention to the sonic experience of our events. I look forward to the next time that I can go into an event with my eyes shut tight to fully immerse my senses and consider my emotional state.

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About the author

Sarah is one of the original members of the IMEX team arriving in time for our first show in Frankfurt as a temp—who was too good to let go!

Sarah Shepherd

PA to Ray Bloom and Group Travel Manager