Public Speaking Ideas- Audience Participation Adds Impact- Part Three- Smell

Public Speaking Ideas– Audience Participation Adds Impact- Part Three- Smell

 I was working outside the other morning and the air was fresh and blowing. The smell of rain was drifting about and it made me want to close my eyes and just breathe deeply. I don’t often contemplate the olfactory sense, but it is an important part of our life experience. Haven’t you ever been traveling down a country road and been smacked in the face by the pungent smell of a skunk? Or maybe you’ve had the opposite experience of waking up in the morning to the smell of bacon sizzling on a griddle. We wrinkle our nose and turn away from the irritating smell of vinegar, while breathing deeply and soaking in every last whisper of aroma as we drive past our favorite coffee stop. 

 Unfortunately when we think of presentations we usually don’t think about the sense of smell. Well, unless it is an ungracious comment after we are done. But smell is one of the five senses we have that help us understand and make sense of the world. It can also be a powerful tool in making presentations more meaningful and the lessons last longer.

 I was once speaking on the power of looking forward. It was the dead of winter in Minnesota and the thoughts of the coming spring was a thought everyone could easily relish. I planted several “spring scented” candles inconspicuously around the venue and had them lit as I began the presentation. As I talked about the power of looking forward, and illustrated it with the desire for spring, it was as if the people could actually smell spring coming, in fact they could! The minds desire for the next season, along with the fragrant aroma of its coming, made a powerful impact on the audience and made the message more clear and applicable to their situations. By involving another sense they were lifted to a greater plane of understanding and application.

 Our sense of smell is one that makes connections. How many times have you been driving somewhere, or walking along a street, taken a deep breath and remarked, “That smells like…” and made a connection to a certain memory or experience? Whenever I smell fresh baked bread I am transported back to my childhood memories of Sunday morning, driving to church in our 1956 Chevy, and passing the Wonder Bread Bakery. If we can creatively involve the sense of smell in a presentation we have helped our audience make an immediate connection to a memory or experience, or even better, we created a new memory or experience for them through the creativity of our presentation message.

 There is a verse in the Bible that talks of the prayers of the saints as being a sweet smelling aroma. When presenting on that perspective of our prayers before God, I had several “sweet smelling’ candles lit so that the aroma would be clear to everyone’s noses. This simple illustration made an immediate impact and lasting impression on the audience and the power of their prayers from God’s perspective.

 When you have prepared your next presentation ask yourself if there is a way to incorporate the sense of smell to your audience into your presentation experience? It may get the message out from under their noses and into their imaginations.

Author: Craig Wagganer, Date Published: October 7, 2009

Craig Wagganer was an instructor for The Leader's Institute ® from 2007-2012. For more details, you can find him on LinkedIn.

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