How engaging with the senses in a presentation can make it more interesting

Senses let us know that things are real. Everything we know about living experience is learned through our five senses. It’s how we know what is true or not.

Have you heard of the raisin exercise? It is a mindful activity in which you pick up a raisin, smell, see, touch and listen to it, all before eating it. Why? It helps you pay attention. Right here, right now. Boredom is the enemy of a presentation. You want you audience to pay attention, not get distracted but be in the moment, with you, your ideas and your message.

In this article, I will go through the importance of each sense in terms of presentations and suggest how you can use them to improve your presentation skills.

Sight

Powerful visuals are a repeated recommendation for great presentations. They solidify a concept, make the abstract tangible and present something complicated in a simple way. Research tells us that 75 percent of learning comes from vision. We use it more than any other sense to connect with the world around us.

We spend so much time prioritizing visuals. Hours spent finding the perfect image to represent a concept. Rearranging text and diagrams in perfect harmony. Visuals are important! But sight isn’t the only focus.

Sound

If there’s one thing we think of more than visuals, it’s speech. People agonize over their choice of words. And, undoubtedly, they are important. Words are the main channel of our message. But they aren’t the only form of oral communication. Who says presentations have to be strict and business orientated? Include poetry, sound effects, film dialogues, and other creative forms to make your style stand out.

In this Forbes article, “Three Secrets to Delivering a Powerful Speech” Nick Morgan endorses another mode of sound: music.

Thanks to its highly emotional effects, music has connected people together for centuries. He claims that listening to a heavy bass line anthem like “We Will Rock You” can boost confidence before a speech. With an extra air of authority, you can conduct a presentation with a powerful attitude. Even better, that energy will pass onto your audience. So try making a list of atmospheric songs for your next presentation, depending on which emotion you wish to inspire.

Smell

Our sense of smell is the most reactive. Scents inspire an immediate reaction within us. It influences unconscious responses before we can even consciously think about the smell itself. Smell is also the most emotional sense, inspiring 75% of our emotions. It reminds us of memories most effectively. A certain smell can make us feel incredibly happy or terrible in a matter of seconds. That kind of audience influence is great support for any successful presentation.

Real estate agents have used the smell of freshly baked bread to sell houses. Furniture salesmen have used the smell of leather and cedar to sell expensive and luxury items. Research in Las Vegas casinos found scented slot machines made 45% more revenue than non-scented ones.

This promo for Aroma Marketing shows how businesses are already using the scent of smell in sales.

So when giving a presentation, consider the smell of the room. Input your own scent. Give off something connected to your product. Selling a new brand of chocolate? Release delicious chocolatey aromas. Or simply spray a pleasant ambient scent. According to the psychology of association, your audience will connect your presentation to something positive.

Touch

Touch is a great sense to use in a presentation because it creates a connection between you and the audience. Some presenters address this straight away. They enter through the audience, high fiving or handshaking their way to the stage. Others create physical contact through icebreakers.

Depending on the audience size and formality of your presentation, there are several icebreakers that embrace touch. You might just ask your audience to just shake hands with the person next to them. Immediately, a tension is broken. The room is refreshed and energized.

Tony Robbins is a presenter who embraces touch. He is intimate with his audience; often addressing individuals, coming to their level, touching their shoulders or hugging them in an empowering way. Robbins also uses touch on himself. He claps his hands together and smacks them to his chest, showing energy and passion.

Touch is the sense most connected to our body. In this video, Robbins discusses his fitness routine. He directly connects physical fitness with great presenting skills. He claims that to give effective presentations, he must be in good shape. Connecting with his body makes him more energetic, spontaneous and interactive with his audience.

Taste

Many people talk about taste in presentations, in terms of having good business taste or a taste for design. But what if we were more literal about this sense? Like the others, taste also provokes strong associations. There is so much opportunity to be creative. Why not connect food to an idea?

For example, imagine this scenario:

You are a charity promoting your project for a development of water wells in poor African countries. You call up two members of the audience. One of them is given a pack of dry crackers, which they are asked to eat within two minutes. The other is given a glass of water and told that they cannot give it to the cracker-eating person. At the end of the two minutes, ask them how thirsty they feel, how much they crave the glass of water in the other person’s hand after eating so many dry crackers.

This is a clear and powerful demonstration of how it feels to be thirsty. Immediately, you enhance the appreciation of water. And your project, the development of water wells, becomes a lot more important to the audience. You can talk and talk about the terrible nature of thirst. But seeing somebody in front of you craving water is much more memorable.

Five senses in the world of presentations

Using the senses creates unique and memorable presentations. They help us associate an abstract idea with a tangible world. They inspire emotions, memories and are easily influential. And they enhance the story of your product or concept. By embracing all five senses in a presentation, you don’t just make it creative and memorable, you influence your audience.

Senses have been used in the animal world since the beginning of life. They have been used in the writing world to create immersive imaginary situations for readers. They have been used in the religious world to connect with life in a spiritual way.

Now, lets bring the five senses into the world of presentations!