The Five Senses of Your Brand: Sound

Picture this: You walk into an event, and although the guests are moving around, the bars are open and the hors d’oeuvres are being passed, there is absolutely no sound in the room. 


How powerful of a feeling would that be, to walk into a room and not be able to hear a sound? It would definitely make you more aware of your surroundings, and allow you to take in all of the other elements of the room - the way the flowers smell, the unbelievable taste of the signature cocktail, and the carefully selected lighting. Powerful, indeed. That’s why you don’t hear much music in a typical art museum setting—the paintings and sculptures are there to invite you to take it all in. 

Silence often also creates discomfort, which, in the right environment—say, a performance art piece—can be exactly the goal.

A holiday party, celebration after a successful branding campaign, or awards dinner, however, lends itself to a more vibrant atmosphere. What types of sounds can be used to amplify your event or activation, and should they remain the same or change with each shift in the program?

In addition to visual and vocal cues, use sound as a non-disruptive way to cue your guests to the next phase of the evening. Most often, our attendees/customers are unknowingly guided by sound at an event. Picture the moments before a wedding ceremony begins, when guests are getting seated, and soft music is playing in the background. The typical choice for this setting involves an acoustic guitar, a string quartet of some kind, or a soft and smooth singer to set the mood.  If Pitbull or Metallica was playing, you may not feel the same sense of urgency to get seated, listen to an officiant recite, and watch your friends and family make vows to one another. When the music changes to signal the bride down the aisle, all are quiet and respectful and all eyes are on her.

Then comes the cocktail hour, where the music is decidedly more lively—but just a little. As soon as the music changes, guests are out of their seats and headed to the bars and food stations. It’s this time of the night that guests want to say hello to one another, make small talk about how things have been, and ramp up for the next phase of the evening—also known as “The dance floor is now open.”

This also goes for selecting a DJ versus a band, and the playlist that goes along with it, as well as the actual sounds within your place of work. If your playlists and artist changes every day, your workspace can be seen as dynamic, accepting of many different cultures, styles, and opinions, and even more welcoming. To play the same soundtrack every day, as I have experienced working in restaurants and retail scenarios, may be great for setting a consistent mood for your guests, but can really create a stagnant mood with the employees.

Similarly, have you ever been to an event with a keynote speaker where the microphone keeps cutting out, you’re noticing feedback, or the sound isn’t working altogether? It completely changes the way your message is received (and, sometimes, whether it is received at all). Having an alternative (visual or otherwise) is always a good idea. Furthermore, if any of your attendees are visually impaired, it is a good idea to have alternative elements to any speeches in case the sound stops working for any reason.

When choosing the elements of your next event, and including all 5 senses, of course, think about the impact of what people will hear. What do you want the takeaways to be, and how can you use the elements of sound to drive home those points? Whether it’s low, slow string arrangements or a latin dance band, how does that influence the other elements of your event?

Have you ever been to an event that had unique elements of sound? I’d love to hear about it below!