Last week I was caught.
At a networking event I could not hear my fellow attendee, and after already asking for her to repeat twice and still missing the gist I resorted to the polite laugh and nod. A moment went by and my heart sank as, evidently, she waited for an answer to her question. The question, in question, had long fled and was echoing around the walls with the rest of the din in the room and I was caught red faced employing ‘the ol’ smile n’ nod’.
Conversation faux pas
If online restaurant and bar reviews are anything to go by, many people have experienced awkward exchanges like my own at a variety of venues. Disenfranchised, and in a huff, they share their experience and advise others to stay clear of the venue if they value communication with their dinner acquaintances.
This ear pounding effect is not only from the always-present lubricated and loud table, but primarily from the acoustic reverberance (echo) in the room. The current fashion of raw, bare architecture and interior design (think polished concrete, steel, scandustrial) may be visually appealing but is prone to reflect sound.
When the background noise combined with reflected sound is louder than the volume at which your closest fellow diner can yell, speech is no longer intelligible. A typical conversation between two people is about 60 decibels , and restaurants often range from 80dB to 100dB . It’s no wonder we are fighting to be heard!
The sister phenomenon of this acoustic reverberance effect is the psychological occurrence; aptly named “Cocktail Party Effect” in which your brain attempts to focus on the speaker and ignore the background noise . As experience tells us, your brain can only do so much, it may be time to explore acoustic treatment options.
Options to keep reverberance in control:
1. Apply a “man bun only” policy for staff and patrons, in hope to fulfil your acoustic dampening requirements with the noise dampening material; luscious locks.
2. Enlist the help of a specialist Acoustic Engineer to design beautiful and effective acoustic solutions to create an atmosphere of intimacy, and foster great conversation.
References IAC Acoustics. 2018. Comparative Examples of Noise Levels. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.industrialnoisecontrol.com/comparative-noise-examples.htm. [Accessed 13 June 2018].
Anderson, J. “Restaurants: Dining on Decibels.” [Online] Available at
http://www.ergoweb.com/news/detail.cfm?id=2196 [accessed June 13 2018]. PsyBlog. 2018. The Cocktail Party Effect. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.spring.org.uk/2009/03/the-cocktail-party-effect.php. [Accessed 13 June 2018].