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Bucking the Conventional Whiffdom

A Russian convention center focuses on triggering the senses to enhance the meeting experience.

Adding fragrances to large event spaces such as convention centers and casinos is not new. The Mirage in Las Vegas has been pumping perfume from the air vents into public spaces since the early 1990s to neutralize the smell of cigarette smoke on the gaming floor. In fact, resort visitors can actually buy the fragrances from many properties to use at home, from Mandalay Bay’s Coconut Breeze to Bellagio’s Blue Ice scent.

But Russia’s Expoforum is taking fragrance use to another level by introducing scents that contribute to an immersive experience for convention attendees, and hopefully create memory triggers to help them retain education and training. Expoforum is a new convention center in St. Petersburg, built to host up to 10,000 visitors at a time in 540,000 square feet of exhibit and meeting venues plus 430,000 square feet of outdoor event space. The scent initiative is part of the facility's “sixth sense” concept, which aims to provide a more welcoming and comfortable environment for conference attendees.

Expoforum’s signature fragrance is edelweiss, but each convention can choose a preferred aroma to be disseminated using the venue's air-filtration system from Third Sense Event Marketing. A recent timber association event used the scent of wood shavings and fresh-cut lumber. And although it’s hard to imagine what fragrance would be a good choice for the oil and gas industry, fashion events could be enhanced by designer perfumes while “new car smell” would benefit automotive shows. In fact, research suggests that aroma marketing doesn’t just provide a pleasant fragrance, it can also increase associative learning and improve mood and performance.

The other enhanced sensory experiences used at Expoforum are sound (classical music is played in some areas while the acoustics are muted in others for manageable sound levels); taste (a renewed focus on interesting F&B); sight (natural daylight and a calming color palette); and touch (warm wood surfaces and an emphasis on comfortable furnishings rather than industrial ones.) The “sixth sense” is what Expoforum’s International Development Director Maria Tsedeviyn calls “an environment conducive to exhibitions and congresses that delivers value through better learning and networking. We recognize that the more comfortable a delegate feels, the more positive their experience will be in the venue and the more successful the event will be.”

Another initiative launched by Expoforum this year is a new professional convention organization. Announced at IMEX Frankfurt in May, the PCO will provide logistical support to all groups considering an event in St. Petersburg and specialize assistance with sourcing, visas, and industry and academic contacts, particularly for associations.



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