Engaging Your Audiences With Multi-Sensory Experiences

Exclusive Interview with: Michael Perman

Michael Perman is head of the innovation firm C’EST WHAT? https://www.cestwhat.org and author of the book CRAVING THE FUTURE: Transforming Our Deepest Desires into New Realities. Perman believes that stimulating people’s senses draws them into the room and keeps them engaged. His experience leading innovation events for brands such as Levi’s, Gap, Banana Republic, Adidas and Hyatt has given him perspective on what makes an event more successful and memorable.

SPEAKING.COM: How can event planners engage their audiences?

PERMAN: Event planners are often challenged to discover new ways to engage their audience and fill seats at conference events. One successful approach is to stimulate the minds and bodies of participants with multi-sensory experiences that are memorable and shareable. Integrating music, color, texture, aroma, vivid imagery and audience participation with relevant content keeps people on their toes and opens their channels of listening.

Music is always a welcome reprieve from endlessly exhausting PowerPoint presentations. But, how about teaching people to write their own songs and then having a live band play the songs improv-style?

Peter Himmelman, CEO of Innovation firm Big Muse https://www.bigmuse.com does just that for clients like Boeing, 3M, Adobe, and Coca-Cola. He is an accomplished musician, expert on creativity, and author of the book LET ME OUT, Unlock Your Creative Mind and Bring Your Ideas to Life. Peter believes that engaging audiences in surprising ways is crucial to engaging their attention and breaking out of their norm.

SPEAKING.COM: How does your combined interactive program with Peter Himmelman create a unique interactive experience for the audience?

PERMAN: We often begin our presentation with a “cold-opening” that you sometimes see on television shows such as Saturday Night Live. Instead of saying, “Hello and thanks for having me here,” we often begin our presentations with live music playing while we are tossing oranges to participants in the audience or handing out samples of chocolate while saying hello and shaking hands. That stimulates people’s imaginations and conveys that the experience they are about to have will be very different than any other event experience.

So often we are confronted with things we’ve already seen, things we already know. When that happens, the mind goes into a sort of autopilot mode. That’s when you’ll typically see people zoning out and getting on their phones. The trick to garnering people’s rapt attention and focus is to present them with something that defies their expectations. There’s something magical about coming in front of an audience and getting them thinking, “What in the world is going on here?”

Himmelman and Big Muse teach audiences the fundamentals of song writing as a means to transcend creative obstacles. Audience members interview each other in pairs, ask questions about physical descriptions and emotional reactions to experiences they’ve had, and then write songs for each other. Volunteers experience the songs they have written, performed live on stage with a full rock band.

SPEAKING.COM: How do you and Peter Himmelman stimulate creativity in your audience?

PERMAN: While the sources of creativity are often elusive and mysterious, there is evidence that the very concept of creativity and how it is stimulated among audience members can be described scientifically.

A 2018 study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and led by Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Roger Beaty suggests that highly creative people are characterized by their ability to simultaneously engage three large-scale neural networks in our brains: the default, salience, and executive systems.

The default mode network, he said, is involved in memory and mental simulation. So the theory is that it plays an important role in processes like mind-wandering, imagination, and spontaneous thinking.

“In terms of creativity, we think that’s important for brainstorming,” Beaty said. “But you’re not always going to stumble onto the most creative idea that way, because you might be drawn to something unoriginal from memory, so that’s when these other networks come online.”

The salience network, he said, detects important information, both in the environment and internally. The salience network includes parts of your brain that are responsible for mediating emotions, learning, memory, taste, touch, and planning for the future.

Lastly, Beaty said, the executive control network helps people focus on useful ideas while discarding those that aren’t working.

“It’s the synchrony between these systems that seems to be important for creativity,” Beaty said. “People who are more creative can simultaneously engage brain networks that don’t typically work together.”

SPEAKING.COM: How does your program apply multi-sensory stimulation?

PERMAN: My innovation strategy firm, C’EST WHAT? has applied the concept of multi-sensory stimulation to engage audiences for years. My keynote speeches and follow-up workshops are purposefully designed and orchestrated to light up the minds of my audiences. I have included a spectrum of musical accompaniments in my presentations, including accordion players, electric violinists, Irish folk bands, flamenco, French can-can dancers, didgeridoo and the full, improvisational experience with Peter Himmelman and Big Muse.

Creativity and innovation emerge from stimulating our senses. Using live music as a tool to generate energy vibrations and enhance the overall mood can generate a dopamine rush, flooding minds with the excitement of creating what is next. Music and lyrics touch our emotions and trigger memories and metaphors that have emotional resonance.

If you wish to attract and engage your audience with memorable, creative experiences, then highly immersive, mindfully crafted innovation keynotes are a great way to keep people talking for years to come.

© SPEAKING.com, published on June 3, 2019

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Fascinating Interviews and Insights from Our Speakers:


Need help filling the seats at your next meeting / event?

Call us / email us / check availability and fee for your favorite speaker.

Get in touch
Call us: (760) 656-8770
Toll free in the US: (877) 717-5327