How to Embrace All 5 of Your Audience’s Senses

The mind is fascinating. For years, researchers have been trying to crack the code on increasing information retention and upping our ability to learn. You’ve heard us talk about the importance of using visuals in presentations for years, because visuals are the primary avenue through which our brain processes information. However, visual information is not the only way our brains intake details. In fact, all five of our senses are responsible for receiving and processing the information we experience. Sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste all trigger their own memory responses. That’s why in your next presentation, you should strive to engage not just one or two of your audience’s senses, but all five of their senses to heighten their memory retention.

Sight encompasses much more than what you put on a slide. When engaging the sense of sight, be sure to think through everything your audience will view. Make sure you focus not just on what they’ll see, but also how they’ll see it. Think about the sight lines in your room and make every effort to remove any barrier between you and your audience.

Try This: Select an outfit that is complementary in color to your slide design to create a cohesive visual scene.

When thinking through the sounds that your audience will hear, consider not only your voice and vocal tone, but also the acoustics of the room, any sounds that will come from a video or audio clip, and the different levels of hearing your audience may have. Once you have considered the physical logistics of the sound environment, take some time to think of a creative way to use unexpected sounds to complement the information you’re sharing and create an inquisitive curiosity within your audience.

Try This: Use audio clips to help transport your audience into a storytelling moment. For example, if you’re describing a camping trip, use campfire and nature sounds to transform an auditorium into a campground.

Smell is a powerful memory builder. We’ve all experienced times where you get a whiff of a certain fragrance in the air, and suddenly you’re transported back to a place and time in your memory. Smells can even invoke specific feelings, like happiness, anger, peace, and nostalgia. You want your audience to have a fond memory your presentation, which is why figuring out a way to associate a pleasant smell with your information can go a long way.

Try This: Use oil diffusers to create a pleasant smell in your presentation room. Just like using audio clips to transport your audience to a different place, using smells can quickly pull your audience into your story.

Engaging your audience’s sense of touch can be tricky in a presentation. But with some forethought, you can elevate your presentation to the next level. Give your audience members a physical object to touch and feel, and you’ll help create muscle memory that will engage later when they hold or see a similar object in everyday life.

Try This: Give everyone a simple, everyday object that coincides with your main idea. When you’re making your point, have everyone pull it out and feel the object in their hands as you speak. Then, invite them to do something special with the object to reinforce the muscle memory.

This might be the most difficult of all the senses to engage during a presentation. While it is difficult, it’s not impossible to engage the sense of taste while delivering impactful information. In college, I had a professor who made our entire class French toast during a lecture. As food was ready, he passed it around without skipping a beat. That class was so memorable that, years later, I still think of the lesson whenever I eat French toast. It takes a lot of skill to cook while you talk, but you can also simply provide food, drinks, or snacks during your presentation. Using food as a way to create a memory for your audience will increase their memory of your presentation and their engagement during it since they won’t be distracted thinking about lunch break.

Try This: Give your audience a flight of beer or non-alcoholic drink during your presentation that coincides with each main point. When sharing those points, have your audience take a drink and tie in the flavor of the drink to the content of your presentation. The next time they drink a malty beverage, they’ll be reminiscing about your message!

We live in an ever-changing world, and as presenters, we must always look for ways to think outside of the box to wow our audience. Engaging all five senses will not only keep your audience intrigued about what is coming next, but it will also help them retain your information at a greater level.

Unsure how to structure your next presentation? Check out the Presentation Mentor online course today!

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