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Tapping into the 5 Senses for Effective and Unforgettable Public Speaking

A crowded room with people seated around a dais.

While there are plenty of sophisticated strategies and skills that can elevate the art of public speaking, sometimes I find it’s best to bring things down to brass tacks as a reminder of what really works. 

Think back to when you were in school and your teacher assigned the class a personal essay or other creative writing prompt. In all likelihood, they probably instructed, if not required, that you tap into the five senses in order to do so effectively. 

For that reason, I’m using this blog post to go old school and explore how to tap into the five senses—sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell—to enhance your public speaking skills and leave a lasting impression.

Sight: Remember, visual impact matters!

Make every effort whenever possible to utilize compelling visuals in your speech. Humans are visual creatures, and incorporating impactful visuals can significantly enhance your message. Use slides, images, and props to create a visually stimulating presentation that reinforces your points.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 65% of the population are visual learners

With that statistic in mind, can you imagine not incorporating visual elements? You would potentially fail to connect with more than half of your audience

Don’t underestimate the value of body language and facial expressions

Your body speaks volumes. Maintain eye contact, use expressive gestures, and let your facial expressions convey the emotions behind your words. A visually engaged audience is more likely to remember your message.

Body language researcher, Albert Mehrabian, determined the following 55/38/7 Formula, which states that 55% of communication is nonverbal, 38% is vocal, and 7% is represented by words only. 

Sound: Harness the power of voice and tone

As you know and have likely experienced, a monotonous voice can quickly lull an audience into disinterest. Vary your pitch, pace, and volume to emphasize key points and maintain the audience’s attention. Practice modulation to create a dynamic and engaging vocal presence.

Remember, the formula above! 

If you need to vary up your presentation, give your voice a break — quite literally — and consider some audio alternatives. 

Incorporate compelling audio

Consider incorporating relevant audio clips or background music to set the tone and evoke emotions. The right sound can enhance the overall impact of your message.

Touch: Tap in to establish emotional connections

No, don’t actually tap or otherwise touch anyone! What I’m suggesting here is that you make an emotional connection with your audience by tapping into storytelling that is rich with emotional resonance. 

Engage your audience’s sense of touch by weaving personal anecdotes and stories into your speech. Touch their hearts with narratives that evoke empathy and connect them emotionally to your message.

Introduce opportunities for audience interaction

Encourage physical interaction, whether through Q&A sessions, hands-on activities, or simply inviting the audience to participate. The tactile experience of engagement can make your speech more memorable.

Taste: Inject your words with flavor (metaphorically speaking)  

Use vivid and descriptive language. Caveat: this does not mean salty or offensive language! Instead I urge you to appeal to the sense of taste by incorporating descriptive language that paints a vivid picture in the minds of your audience. Describe experiences, ideas, and concepts in a way that allows them to savor the words.

Make the most of metaphors and analogies

Comparing abstract concepts to familiar tastes can make your message more relatable and memorable. Consider using metaphors that evoke taste sensations to drive your points home.

Smell: Introduce scent to evoke powerful memories

Much like taste, smell can be invoked through storytelling. Use metaphors that involve scents to trigger the audience’s imagination and create a sensory-rich experience.

Referencing a scent can be powerfully evocative because, as Dawn Goldworm, co-founder of 12.29, an “olfactive branding company,” asserts, “Smell and emotion are stored as one memory.” 

As you can see, mastering the art of public speaking goes beyond crafting eloquent speeches; it involves creating a multisensory experience for your audience. By tapping into the five senses—sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell—you can elevate your presentations, leaving a lasting and unforgettable impression on your audience. 

Of course, like most professional advice, the message is easier said than done. I’m here to support you and strengthen your position as a public speaker with my experience and expertise. 

Ready to get started? 

Let’s go

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