Awakening your senses with rock and roll is a work experience with a difference.

Axl Rose, lead singer of American hard rock band Guns N'Roses is not someone you are likely to meet at a work meeting.

Well you might – sort of.

You see the Rose persona, along with those of other rock luminaries like Aussie rocker Jimmy Barnes, AC/DC lead guitarist Angus Young and American icon Madonna, is an example of a growing trend in business events - sensory experience.

In this rock and roll version, delegates at business conferences or seminars cast aside the whiteboard or laptop for a couple of hours and instead dress up in the image of stars like Rose, write and perform their own songs and in the process tap into their hearing, sight and touch senses.


The idea came from Irishman Ciaran Gribbin, a Grammy-nominated musician. Eighteen months ago, he founded Sydney-based company Rock and Roll Team Building after he noticed how people's moods lifted whenever he played music at corporate events.

Gribbin has worked with some of the biggest names in the music business: In 2010 he co-wrote Madonna's hit single Celebration, has opened shows for Paul McCartney and Crowded House, wrote all the original songs for the U2-supported movie Killing Bono and in 2011 became the lead singer of legendary Australian band INXS.

Many New Zealand companies are getting into the act by taking high-performing staff or clients across the Tasman for sensory experiences on reward or conference trips.

In addition, a study by global brand building expert Martin Lindstrom, who has worked with many Fortune 500 companies like Gillette, Microsoft and Mercedes-Benz, found brand impact increased by 30 per cent where one sense is engaged but by 70 per cent when at least three senses are used.

Under Gribbin's tutelage, attendees are organised into teams, taught how to sing in three-part harmony and helped to write a song which they later perform to the accompaniment of a band.

They are also offered the chance to record their composition but, says company general manager Nicole White, the most fun comes when they get to be rock stars themselves.

"We ask our clients to give us seven volunteers who we take backstage and dress up," she says. "They can appear on stage with Ciarin as Madonna,Young, Rose, Barnes, Peter Garrett (Midnight Oil) or in a band such as US southern rockers Lynyrd Sknyrd.

"It is a great way to help them meet new people and break down barriers and for men especially it taps into the dream of putting on a serious rock star performance. You can see the joy in their eyes when they start to relax and sing and it truly helps them get lost in the moment."


The company also offers a workshop combining traditional aboriginal music and rock and roll with the duo Apakatjah in which delegates get to sing in harmony and play traditional instruments like Aboriginal clap sticks.

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