How To Work Your Audience’s Senses Into Your Next Speech

Use sight, smell, touch, and taste in your next speech
Use sight, smell, touch, and taste in your next speech
Image Credit: João Loureiro

When we go to the effort of giving a speech, what we would really like to have happen is for our audience to remember what we told them. We struggle to use the importance of public speaking make this happen. It turns out that if we want to be remembered, then what we need to do is to find a way to make our next speech appeal to each of senses of our audience. Given that all we have to work with is words, you may view this as being difficult to do. However, if you take the time to think about it, you just might be able to create a speech that will tickle your audience’s senses and cause you to be remembered long after your speech is over.

Adding Senses To A Speech

When we are creating a speech, we need to realize that our speeches need to be accessible to our listeners through the implied magic of sight, smell, touch, sound and taste. No matter if we are talking about software, requests or evaluations, speakers must try to create an unforgettable audience experience. Emphasizing sensory qualities of your speech will draw your listeners closer to the message, rendering it stronger and richer. The good news for all of us is that it’s not that difficult to do.

If we need examples of how to go about adding this kind of color to our speeches, then all we really need to do is to take a look at the manner in which salesmen persuade customers to buy consumer electronics. These salesmen point out the dazzling colors, smooth contours and even that “new-car smell” that purchasers can enjoy. You can use the same information by observing what’s around you, making notes and incorporating these ideas into your next speech to make it more memorable and to heighten your persuasiveness.

When people learn something new, they are forming memories. Because people learn in different ways, speakers need to be aware of the most common learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. To ensure that your audience remembers you and your message, incorporate a range of techniques to connect with people of all learning styles.

How To Work Sense Into A Speech

If you are going to want to appeal to your audience’s senses in your next speech, we’re going to have to examine how this can be accomplished. It all starts with sight. Ensure that your audience can visualize what you are saying, and that they are not simply hearing your words. A great way to accomplish this is by using visual aids.

Next comes smell. Our most primitive sense, smell is often connoted by a single word. What does “glue” evoke in you for example, or “marker” or “grass”? Look for and employ words that come with memory and meaning. Or, describe how something smells. Are the pages of an old book “musty”? Tell your audience that – they’ll know exactly what you mean. Do you get hungry when someone talks about the “aroma of baking cookies” wafting from the kitchen? These examples help your listeners grasp what sentiment you are trying to convey. Bring your listeners into the world of your speech by seeking and using the right words and phrases.

Don’t forget about touch. To engage your audience’s tactile sense, you have many options. You could pass around something to touch that relates to your speech, such as a sample of wood if your topic is wood working. If sharing a sample isn’t feasible, it’s time to employ carefully worded descriptions that evoke your audience’s sense memories for touch, such as a cold wind that chills your face or a soft bunny with a cool, damp nose.

Your audience is already listening to you so make sure that you incorporate sound into your speech. Sounds often evoke emotions. Who among us has not been thrilled by the thunder of a band or had the hair on the back of our necks raised by the nighttime call of a wolf or trill of a owl? Use sounds like these in your speeches. Practice making the sounds with a tape recorder, if necessary. You can also clap your hands, whistle or snap your fingers – anything to grab your listeners’ attention. Remember to incorporate pauses into your speech: Silence can be as powerful as sound.

Finally there is taste. What we all have to realize is that each member of our audience has a set of tastes that produce strong memories in them. It can be their mom’s apple pie or the spicy Indian food that they had last night. If we can find a way to invoke these memories as we deliver our speech, we will have created a strong and lasting impression in our audience.

What All Of This Means For You

What would make your next speech special would be if someone in your audience was to come up to you long after you had given the speech and tell you that they still remember what you said. Our ability to tap into our audience’s long term memory is the ultimate goal of each of our speeches. However, this is very hard to do because our audiences are so distracted with everything else that is currently going on in their lives. However, it turns out that if we can come up with a way to tap into our audience’s five senses, then we just might be able use the benefits of public speaking to make our next speech unforgettable.

If we are creating a speech that we want to use to appeal to our audience’s senses then we’ll need to find a way to reach their sense of sight, smell, touch, sound and taste. In order to learn how to go about doing this correctly, we can watch how sales people communicate with customers about the traits of their products – the good ones do their best to involve all of a customer’s senses. Everyone learns in a different way and so as speakers we need to understand this and make sure that we appeal to our audience in the way that they learn best. Speakers need to understand that they will need to tune their next speech differently to appeal to their audience’s five senses.

The challenge that we face with our next speech is that it is not easy to use the words in our speech to reach out and activate our audience’s senses. However, as difficult as this is to do we need to understand that if we can do it our audience will experience a powerful connection with our speech. This effort can result in a significant payoff for us. The next time that you are creating a speech, take the time to think about how you can activate your audience’s five senses and then sit back and wait for your speech to become unforgettable.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Which of the five senses do you think can create the strongest lasting memory for a speech?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

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