Make sense(s): The Power Of Soundscaping

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The most successful events are seamless, transporting you to the theme’s destination and beyond. We create an experience and bring a theme to life when we engage all our senses. The American Heritage Dictionary says “soundscaping” (noun) is “an acoustic environment, a virtual/emotional environment created using sound.” A soundscape composition is defined as “an electro-acoustic musical composition creating a sound portrait of a sound environment.”

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We can tend to overlook the finer nuances of sound when planning events, yet hearing unique sounds inspires our minds to conjure images of faraway places or specific things in a few, short seconds. Mere moments into Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” the wild violins (or piano cords) have us swatting at imaginary insects.

Sound can also inspire us to recall happy times or motivate us to create a future. This is why a smart planner uses some form of soundscaping in every event.

One of our corporate clients wanted guests to be transported to a luxurious, elegant garden for a product-themed dinner. A hotel ballroom became a European-style garden with elaborate backdrops, trees, shrubs, flowers, water features and all the sounds that go with them.

Guests entered a land that modern time had forgotten. Sounds of nature helped immerse guests in the secret garden. I can’t tell you how many people came up to me afterward and told me they had forgotten they were in a ballroom. Through visuals, lighting and sound, we fooled their brains into forgetting where they were. That was exactly the goal.

Soundscaping doesn’t have to be an elaborate combination of natural and artificial acoustics to capture attendees’ imaginations. It can be as simple as a music selection. A 1950s’ diner-themed celebration would not be complete without classic rock-and-roll. No matter how much attention you pay to the visual details, the trip back in time would burst like a bubble if the music was heavy metal or alternative rock.

To me, seeing the visuals is like seeing a black-and-white movie. Once you add soundscaping, your vision is in Technicolor. So the next time you plan the perfect setting for an event, think beyond what guests will see, think also about what they’ll hear.

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Soundscaping also sets the tone for general sessions, awards events and content-heavy gatherings. I consider the meeting’s purpose and tailor my walk-in and walk-out music to the situation. I choose music that reflects the speakers’ personalities and the meeting’s tone.

Awards events require that a “bed” of music be played while photos are taken to keep energy up in the room without distracting from the photography. For meetings with a theme I often create a playlist with the key words in the lyrics. That music can be played at off-site events, on group transfers, burned onto a CD that is sent pre- or post-show, or given as a room gift.

Sound is a powerful, imagination tool. Craft a well-thought-out soundscape and each time a particular song is played, the memory of the meeting will live on.

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