Was it the butterscotch-colored walls, light coconut scent wafting through the door as I opened it or the cushy island of deep blue carpet under my feet as I stepped into the boutique hotel? I don’t know yet I instinctively sighed with relief. And that was before I saw the the smiling doorman walking towards me, saying, “We’re glad that you’re safely out of that storm. Let me help you with your coat, if you like, and your bag.”
The lobby was lit with the soft, full-spectrum lights that store make-up counters have, making us all look and feel our best.

Hint: Such positive sensory cues multiple their emotional effect when we feel more than one at once or in quick succession. In fact, without my knowing it at the time, that doorman looked more handsome and caring than I would have experienced him if the entry to that hotel had shiny metal railings, an elaborately patterned carpet and/or a dark colored wall. Further, the “closing scene” when I left the hotel the next morning (where I was given a small purple silk scarf with the hotel logo on it) was as emotionally positive as the opening scene, Consequently my memory faded of the cramped bathroom.

According to research on the power of the sequence of events within an experience, the last moments of an experience have the greatest impact on our overall feeling about it yet those who are in charge of an experience often most neglect that end part. Related research shows that if the last day of a vacation is fun, even thought the first days weren’t, I will have a more positive memory of the trip. And if the last stage of a colonoscopy is not uncomfortable because the device used in it was moved further out, then the overall memory of the procedure is more positive than if the device was not eased out for the last stage.

That’s why it behooves anyone who wants their guests, customers, conference attendees or families at home to feel welcome, brag about their experience and act nicely to storyboard the sequence of multi-sensory experiences that those they serve or love experience in their “place.” Even apparently small physical experiences make a big emotional and even learning difference. Adapt these multi-sensory cues to emotionally engage with others:

1. Children “are better at math when gesturing with their hands while thinking,” found to Josh Ackerman, a MIT psychologist. Further, the weight, texture and hardness of objects we touch affects our opinion of the people and the situation.

2. Actors recall lines better when moving and we remember more when walking, gesturing, eating or physically working on something.

3. “People are more generous after holding a warm cup of coffee and more callous after hold a cold drink,” discovered Yale University psychologist John Bargh.

4. Patterns, whether on the walls or floor or upper part of one’s clothing, break up the observers’ attention span and, like ambient noise in a room from the heating or air conditioning system, make us more agitated and inclined to become irritated by each other’s behavior.

5. Scent is the most directly emotional sense and thus a two-edge sword. If the evoked memory is positive it hits deeply and, if not….well, we are more likely to project bad characteristics on the scene and individuals around us.

6. Enable people to engage in the scenes or objects around them and gain bragging rights as a consequence. For example, at places where attendees wait to check into the conference and at the doorways where they enter conference sessions, have a “Get an insight You Need” sign on a large bowl, resting, on stand, that is filled with illustrated cards that each have an instructional and/or inspirational saying or fortune telling tip. Near where attendees wait to check into the conference and at the doorways into conference sessions. Conference staff can encourage attendees to read aloud to each other the cards they picked up. Hint: The more actions we take on behalf of something the more deeply they believe in it, identify with it and will share it with others.

7. Encourage colleagues to stand and walk side-by-side with those you serve this “sidling” is more likely to evoke a convivial “us” feeling.

8. Create a story about your region, place, interactive object or monument or event, hopefully involving humorous, heroic or otherwise emotional incidents and individuals, where you can invite those you serve at the event to become a part of that story, as Peter Gruber suggests. The conference convener might cite the story at the opening of the conference. The convener can also then cite a simple, easy ritual that attendees can get or do during the conference that enables them to visibly become a part of “our conference” story when they can participate a ritual. Such actions evoke a “virtuous circle” of mutual reinforcing actions to grow the impact of what you do.”

To further reinforce attendees’ feelings of being a part of a conference community, offer a relevant souvenir as a gift. You might also offer a snack that somehow symbolizes that story and then have staff taking photos of then eating that snack together in front of a scene on the wall that represents a highlight of “our story” and includes the conference name and theme on it. Then email the photos to attendees after the conference and invite them to socially share them. Thus you create a “virtuous circle” that spurs participants to deepen their appreciation for the event and be motivated to gain greater visibility by sharing the photos with them in them.

9. Continue to keep them involved with “our story.” Use geosocial apps that enable them to connect with each other – and your staff – as they walk through your store, hotel, hospital, sports arena or event. That’s what DoubleDutch did for TED conference attendees. And use augmented reality apps, as in Tuscany, yet to enable people to discover more about your area, place or meeting.

Author's Bio: 

Kare Anderson is an Emmy-winning former NBC and Wall Street Journal journalist, now a connective behavior and quotability speaker, author and columnist. Her TED talk on The Web of Humanity: Be an Opportunity Maker has attracted over 2.4 million views. Her TEDx talk on Redefine Your Life Around a Mutuality Mindset is now a standard session for employees and invited clients at 14 national and global corporations. Her ideas have been cited in 16 books. Her clients are as diverse as Salesforce, Novartis, and The Skoll Foundation. She was a founding board member of Annie’s Homegrown and co-founder of nine women’s political PACs. Kare’s the author of Opportunity Makers, Mutuality Matters, Moving From Me to We, Beauty Inside Out, Walk Your Talk, Getting What You Want, and Resolving Conflict Sooner. She serves on the boards of The Business Innovation Factory, TEDxMarin, and World Affairs Council Marin.