Dialing Up the Conference Experience with Music

Using Music to Dial Up the Conference Experience"I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music."   -- Billy Joel

Few things in this world can change my mood and energy like music. If I'm weary,  I'll crank up the tunes and in minutes, my energy is restored. 

When our kids were little, I'd often use music to set the tone. Household chores? Cue the Doobie Brothers. Building a Lego Castle? Bring on Sting. Naptime? Ahh, Bach!

Music and the Human Brain

Albert Einstein. The pinnacle of genius, yet did you know he struggled in grade school? His teachers recommended that his parents pull him out of school and get him started on less brain-taxing manual work. His mother rejected their advice and instead, bought Albert a violin. Einstein himself attributed his high intellect to the violin. If there was a problem to be tackled, he'd play his violin as he mulled over solutions.

There are many studies on the healing properties of music. It is believed that music-based therapy played a big part in Congresswoman Gabby Giffords' miraculous brain injury recovery. For dementia patients, they're finding that music triggers memories, too.

I read even more fascinating studies about music and brain function. Recall improves when the same music used during learning is played during recall testing. They found that listening to Mozart's Sonata (or similar pieces) released neurons in the brain, which caused the body to relax. In a study with three college groups taking an IQ test, those who listened to Mozart's Sonata scored almost 10% higher than the other two groups.

So how might we dial up the conference experience with music?

I'm no brain scientist, but here are a few ideas bubbling up in my brain:

  1. Embed Musical Cues Within Learning
    Rather than random background music, for the panel discussion that's about to start in the ballroom, how about making a more purposeful choice in one piece that plays as everyone enters the room. Later, as participants are engaged in table discussion, that same piece plays quietly in the background. And yet again, as they exit, that same piece is playing. Now you've set the stage for idea #2...
  2. Leverage Post-Event Recall Triggers
    If you're pushing out a post-event, 5-minute video interview with an expert, why not indulge in a few introductory slides accompanied by the same music that was played during the conference learning session?
  3. Certification Testing at Your Event? Cue Mozart.
    If Mozart's Sonata helps to ease pre-test jitters, who am I to argue? I'd have it playing softly in the background as test takers entered the room.
  4. Mid-afternoon Energy Spark
    We're all challenged to keep audiences engaged, particularly a couple of hours after lunch. If Mozart gets them to relax, how about playing a lively piece like  Bruno Mars' Runaway Baby as they move to their next afternoon breakout?
  5. Seek Out Audience Favorites
    Whenever I'm leading a workshop, I'll scan the registration list and try to find a few people on Facebook. Even if you're not FB friends, you'll spot a few favorite musical artists listed. For one workshop, I discovered three Toby Keith fans. When they arrived, I had a Toby Keith playlist running and there was lots of smiles and swaying to the music.

Looking for more ways to dial up the conference experience? Check out these Cvent blog posts: Conference Inspiration from Apple's Genius Bar, PowerPoint and the Gen Y Crowd, and 4 More Reasons to Educate Attendees About Social Media.

(photo by Brandon Giesbrecht on Flickr)

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