Training and development professionals who specialize in accelerated learning have long recognized the importance of sensory stimulation in the learning process. Stimulate the senses and you stimulate the brain, keeping participants alert and energized.
Scent plays an important role in stimulating the brain as smell is the only sense that is relayed to the brain unfiltered. Smells can bring back memories, stir emotions and reinforce experiences. The comfort that the smell of freshly baked bread brings is an example of the impact of scent.
Scent is used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation. Hotels and resorts often use air freshener and, in some parts of the world, incense to create a certain ambiance. Event planners can enhance their ambiance of their meetings by strategically using scent.
During a recent discussion in the LinkedIn Event Planning and Event Management Group, event planners grappled with some concerns surrounding the use of scent. For example, scent allergies need to be taken into consideration whenever event planners are exploring the use of scent. It is probably wisest to save the use of scent for smaller events and meetings when there is an opportunity to verify that none of the participants have allergies.
My company has recognized this for a number of years and a question about scent allergies is a standard part of our participant profiles. If we find some participants have issues with scent, we refrain from incorporating this sensory element into event design and we also ask that attendees refrain from using perfume or strong aftershave.
Here are some low-risk natural scents that can be used to energize participants during meetings, conferences, and events:
Baking: The smell of freshly baked goods is one of the easiest ways to keep participants alert. Try arranging with your venue to bring in freshly baked rolls and bread during meals. Experiment with popcorn or freshly baked cookies, muffins, gingerbread or brownies during break.
Candies : Mints, cinnamon sticks, licorice, candy coated almonds, gum balls, candy canes at Christmas and freshly made cotton candy will definitely introduce scent in a way that pleases attendees.
Wood: Booking a meeting venue with a wood-burning fireplace or stove, or moving one of the breaks outside around a campfire is another natural way to introduce scent.
Essential Oils: Diffusers or oil burners can be used to release the scent of essential oils into a function room. Peppermint boosts energy. Frankincense which is used in some cultures to counter depression, stimulates the brain's limbic system. Lavender is calming and relaxing.
Other Oils : A few drops of Kwon Loong Oil (a well-known scent in Asia, available in specialty stores) in boiling water can help participants breathe more easily and deeply promoting relaxation and a sense of well being. Eucalyptus oil will have the same effect.
Flowers and Flowering Plants: Select flowers and flowering plants with scent in mind.
Some Asian hotels create a beautiful scent by using orange blossoms, cherry blossoms or lilacs in the lobby. These can also be easily used in a meeting or conference rooms to introduce color and scent.
Citrus: The natural smell of citrus beverages like lemonade, orange juice and grapefruit juice, fresh oranges, lemons or grapefruits will create a soothing ambiance that refreshes attendees.
For more ideas to energize participants through sensory stimulation, also consult Create Spa-Themed Breaks in the Hotel--Even If You Don't Have A SPA, Meeting and Conference Design: Catering to Kinesthetic and Visual Learners, and Conference and Meeting Design: Catering to Analytical and Structured Learners on Cvent Blog.