Event Design

Your Networking Reception is Too Loud

Technology that can adjust the amount of reverb in restaurants holds promise for meetings, too.

partyNetworking receptions are supposed to be lively, stimulating, and have a buzz. But they often have too much of a good thing, and when music is added to the mix, it gets increasingly difficult for attendees to do the one thing they came for: to have meaningful conversations with each other.

When I interviewed Steve Bush, senior technical support specialist and instructor in the audio-education program at sound-engineering company Meyer Sound for our May issue cover story, he told us that the problem — reverberation — is similar to what happens when you’re in a restaurant. When it’s empty, he said, a high level “of reverberation is needed for privacy so that people three tables away cannot understand our conversation.” Once the room fills up and there are more and more noise sources, “the signal-to-noise ratio is so poor that people two feet apart cannot understand each other,” he said. “Everybody is yelling.” That’s because the room has too much reverberation for a large number of people, although it may be just right when there are very few people in the room.

Meyer Sound has implemented a technology solution at two San Francisco–area restaurants, by installing acoustic material to dampen the room reverberation, Bush said, so that when it is full, “you can actually understand the person sitting across the table speaking in a ‘normal’ voice.” When the room empties out, the system adds some reverb back into the room, which makes it feel very comfortable even when there are only 20 people in a room that seats 350.

“It’s a subtle thing,” he said, “that has an immediate impact.”

Can that kind of sound technology be put to work at networking receptions? Sounds like a great idea to me.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.