How to Manipulate Vision and the 5 Senses When Presenting

February 11, 2015

Presenting and your sense of vision blogWhile we’re all familiar with the five senses, most of us probably don’t know that more than 50% of our brain’s resources are dedicated to the activity of seeing the world around us. In other words, our sense of vision/sight often dominates our other senses, which is both a good and bad thing.

It’s good in that it makes us want to add visuals to our presentations. However, this desire often steals from the quality of our message and delivery.

brain activity

This behavior is a great testament to why so many of us get caught in the task of designing our slides rather than focusing on the importance of building our message or perfecting the style of our delivery. Now that we have a heightened sense of awareness, what can we all do as presenters to avoid any possible pitfalls?

I have three suggestions for you:

1. Get Self-Aware
As mentioned above, your sense of sight will cause you to neglect other elements of your presentation. Your brain will want you to just do the “pretty stuff.” Your visuals are important, but they aren’t everything. Acknowledge right now the imbalance that will happen in the creation process so you can build and design a presentation that still capitalizes on the other human senses like touch or hearing by incorporating workshops or other appropriate activities for your audience.

2. Be Deliberate
If you embrace the above, you’ll begin to shift your focus to the power of the other senses. Let them shine. The easiest solution: press “b” on your keyboard more often. Pressing the “b” key on your keyboard when in PowerPoint will turn your screen to black. It’s a quick and easy solution to turn down the visuals and turn up the other senses. Again, your brain is going to demand that you go big with your visuals every time, but sometimes the biggest impact is simply auditory or built around silence.

3. Don’t Overdo It
Since our sense of vision will always dominate, be careful to not over stimulate your audience. You are going to want to aim for less rather than more with your slide design. In addition, make sure your choice of imagery always connects with your message. For instance, if you are talking about a new initiative taking off, opt for a single photo of a space shuttle launch over a fancy animated collage of rockets and astronauts.

The next time you sit down to put together a presentation, remember that your sense of sight will dominate. Again, beautiful visuals are fantastic, but they aren’t everything. Let your other senses play as well.

Author Bio

Scott Schwertly is the author of How to Be a Presentation God and CEO of Ethos3, a Nashville, TN-based presentation boutique providing professional presentation design and training for national and international clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to branded individuals like Guy Kawasaki. If Scott is not working with his team building presentations, you will find him in the pool, on the bike, or on a long run. Scott lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and three dogs. He has a B.A. and M.B.A. from Harding University.

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