Exclusive Report: Sensploration

How does reducing ‘sensory overload’ for delegates lead directly to increased event engagement.

There’s a new buzzword in town? From the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University.

The word is Sensploration.

Researchers have coined this term to help us understand “how our brain modifies information received from one sense by using information from other senses” – It’s a type of crossmodal perception and its value in the real world of events is actually pretty obvious when you think about it.

For example – fish & chips always seem to taste better from the paper and by the seaside.

Why is this?

While you’re smelling and tasting the food, you’re also enjoying a great view and hearing evocative sounds like the waves and the seabirds. You’re also feeling the sea breeze and smelling the sea air. In short all of the senses are enlightened.

And, on top of all this, that entire sensory package may well conjure up powerful memories of happy childhood experiences.


If applied correctly, the concept of Sensploration, allows us to generate strong memorable experiences, therefore, it’s an essential consideration for anyone who creates live event experiences. It can help us to tell stronger stories, give richer experiences and ultimately increase brand / message affiliation.

fives senses

Stylus, the global innovation research and trends firm, offers a couple of startling statistics to support the need to ‘humanise’ event communication. One is that 78% of Brits now spend more time online than they do sleeping. The other is that a communication that appeals to more than three senses at a time can increase engagement by more than 70%.

Think of it ─ an event with 70% higher engagement levels. This isn’t just interesting science. It also has huge implications for ROI.

According to Professor Charles Spence who leads the Oxford University team: “The key issue with society’s digital dependence is that it leads people to feel sensory overload that’s primarily about sight and sound, as that’s what tech is good at delivering. At the same time, they’re encountering disconnect, loss or lack of stimulation by their more emotional senses.”


Smell, for example, is the only sense with a direct connection to our body’s limbic system ─ the centre of the brain that processes emotions and forms memories. Many of us have experienced the way the merest whiff of a scent or cologne can instantly trigger the recollection of a long-lost relationship.

Really, how often do we consider building ‘sense of smell’ into live event experiences?

While creating a multi-sensory event experience generally involves high levels of tech, the idea behind Sensploration reminds us that there are other senses we need to appeal to as well.

Say for example you have some pretty hard business information to communicate. We’ve all seen the familiar Conference scenario: with presentations delivered from a stage.

In that situation we’re engaging sight & sound only, without considering Sensploration. So, no matter how good the presentation is, human sensory ‘wiring’ means that engagement levels are around 20% (Ref: Dales Cone)

Now imagine a different scenario. We bring delegates to a warm and welcoming coffee shop (or perhaps we create this environment). People see and hear the same presentation, but they also feel the comfort and texture of relaxed leather sofas, they smell the coffee and they taste the pastries. Yes, it takes extra budget, but if there’s equal emphasis on both the content and how that works with its environment there is potentially 70% more chance of actually landing that all important message.

There are so many exciting possibilities for integrating Sensploration into live event experiences. As a taste of what can be achieved why not visit Sensorium, an arts and events venue that opened in London in March 2018 with the specific purpose of engaging all five senses simultaneously.

It features haptic walls (using finishes, forms, textures and electronics to stimulate the sense of touch) an intelligent moving lighting system and an immersive sound system tuned to give an ultimate experience at every point in the space. And if all this sounds a bit sci-fi, remember that only a decade ago the use of widescreen LCD screens at events felt like serious immersion.

So, as an exercise, try planning a Sensploration session for yourself. Look for ways to use all the senses to super-engage your audience with your messages in ways that suit your budget. We promise you’ll find it a fun and rewarding exercise ─ and, if you’d like some help, feel free to give us a call…

Jon Salthouse
Content Director
Owl Live
03330 110025