What makes a good event? I have written a lot about this in my blog. As a caterer, I see a mixture of good and bad in my line of work and it gives me the opportunity to reflect on why some things work and some things don’t.
A trend that is prevalent in our culture at the moment is the leaning towards “immersive events/ experiences”. People don’t just want to attend an event, but want to have the experience heightened through all their senses. Businesses and marketing companies know that people who are enjoying themselves are more likely to spend money. Immersive experiences are defined as events that surround the user completely, so much so that they feel they are part of the event. Virtual reality is the most obvious technological expression of this movement. Computer consoles are moving towards this technology using VR headsets to insert the user into the game, rather than watching it through the filter of a screen. 4D cinema is a common feature of lots of theme parks nowadays; you watch a film through 3D glasses, but then get hit by jets of water, gusts of wind and even find your seats moving, all augmenting the story playing out on screen. As humans we are suckers for it; we love the escape and the thrill of it. And as hosts, we can learn a lot from these trends to help us deliver better events.
Some of the best events I have had the privilege to cater have created great experiences for their guests by using the senses as a checklist. The aim is to immerse your guests so all their senses are affected in some way. Something that absolutely astounded me was that this is not a new innovation. Poets have been using the same tools (granted in literary form) to move the minds and hearts of readers for centuries. There is nothing new under the sun! Academics use the term “literary tools” to describe the way poets would try and affect each sense in their reader with their words and phrases. Immersive experiences try to affect all senses so as get into the heart mind and imagination of the user; poets do the same! Granted, the goal is different; poets want to affect peoples hearts, hosts want to achieve the objective of their event.
Using the imagery of poetry as a checklist can really help you plan an excellent immersive event. This checklist event works with a small budget. I cite the article “Imagery in Literature: Tools in Imagination” by Kiri Rowan as my source for the literary tools of poetry (see below for reference).
Have a Clear Objective
First thing, identify the objective of your event. For example, if you are a small business owner and you are hosting a lot of potential business clients you may want to encourage them to spend more money with you. You may want to inform them of new products or ventures that may be of interest to them. If you are hosting a private function, you may be doing it in honour of an anniversary or special birthday. Everything you plan should be to focus your guest towards the achievement of that objective.
Tool Number One: Think Visual
Whatever the objective for the party, create a visual focus. It might be as simple as a table with a birthday cake laid out and photographs of the birthday boy stuck to the wall. If you are hosting as a business, think about having artwork printed that can be mounted on the wall to explain your new venture. Think about photographing your new products and having images of them all around the room so that your guests can see them. These visual images give your guests something to discuss and will help focus them on your objective.
Think about the way the venue is decorated. I went to an amazing Christmas grotto once where the children had to walk through a winding tunnel filled with fairy lights to get to Santa. It was incredible! There are lots of ways you can use fabric, lights and props to create a sense of drama at your event.
This is where it helps to have a creative type in your team. But if you don’t, try using Pinterest as a way to get ideas. The visual social media platform has a huge data base of images and blogs that can give you some inspiration. You can use their search engine function; type in key words that are connected with your objective. For example: “50th birthday party train enthusiast” or “20th anniversary book seller business”. You can select ideas that suit your needs.
Tool Number Two: Think Auditory
Music really, really helps. If your budget does not stretch to hiring a string quartet, create a playlist of suitable tunes that match the mood of the event you’re throwing. There’s nothing more intimidating than walking into a completely silent empty space as a guest and being expected to walk up and chat to people; you can hear every word echoing off the walls!
In the past I have used friends who I know are capable musicians to help me provide some live music. I would pay them for their trouble, but as they weren’t professional musicians it was obviously a lot cheaper than hiring folk. I also didn’t expect them to play the whole time. Depending on the objective of the event, I would play a CD while people arrived and start the live background music when there were enough people around. This works particularly well at Christmas time. I once hosted a craft fair and had children play Christmas carols in the lobby; the atmosphere was just lovely and people really enjoyed seeing the children participate in the event.
Tool Number Three: Think Olfactory
This sense is the sense of smell. As a caterer, I know it can be the most subtle and yet most powerful of the senses. In fact, estate agents sometimes recommend you fill your home with certain smells to get a sale. You can now buy “Sell Your House” perfume, such is the link between smell and positive feelings. (By the way, they come in “Fresh Bread” and “Fresh Coffee” flavours if you are interested).
At an event, make sure the venue is clean. Buy in fresh flowers to perfume the air, or if your objective is to promote your food product, cook or bake them during the event to fill the room with their scent.
Tool Number Four: Think Gustatory
A huge part of any event is the food. We have just created a new canapé menu and page for our Just Catering website. View it here at https://justcatering.info/canapes/ If we were hosting an event to promote this new menu we would absolutely have all the canapés laid out for our guests to feast on. We would make sure that there was clear labelling to identify our vegan, vegetarian, diary and gluten free options. We always ensure every canapé is made to the highest standard. We would want our guests leaving that event in no doubt that our canapés were the best in Birmingham and Solihull.
Tool Number Five: Think Tactile
Are there products that your guests can pick up and touch? Can they interact with your displays? Are their a variety of textures, materials and temperatures to enrich the displays? This might not be appropriate at every event, depending on the objective of your party, but even something as simple as a themed photo station for taking selfies and group shots can encourage people to interact more with the product.
Tool Number Six: Think Kinaesthetic
This covers anything to do with the movement of people or objects. It often interacts with some of the other senses too. Sometimes you can have people move from room to room during an event to enhance their enjoyment and experience. My previous example of the Santas grotto would come under this heading, as the children moved through the fairy lit tunnel into a scene of winter wonderland, the whole room covered with fake snow and Christmas themed displays.
It is incredible how you can inform modern living by looking to traditional art forms. Here is a wealth of wisdom that can enrich our own endeavours. I wish you good fortune with your own event planning. And just remember, whether for a private function or large business event, Just Catering are the best canapé caters in Birmingham and Solihull. Just ask, and we can deliver whatever you need for your event to be a success.
Rowan, Kiri “Imagery in Literature: Tools in Imagination” https://blog.udemy.com/imagery-in-literature/Uploaded April 30th 2014
“Fresh Bread” and “Fresh Coffee” http://sensorydecisions.com/sell-house-home-fast-kit Accessed 30th May 2019