iStock_000002396149XSmallJanuary 16, 2013

Last week we reviewed the importance of the things you don’t say regarding sight and smell…today we address taste and touch.  You may be asking yourself, “how can integrate taste and touch into a speech and why is that important?”

I recently heard 2012 World Champion of Public Speaking, Ryan Avery, at the District 37 Toastmasters Conference last November, and he mentioned in his workshop that taste is one of the senses that invokes memory and helps the audience relate to you.

Molly Quinn in her New York Times article also states:  “Scientists suspect that taste and memory are inextricably bound. That taste, like smell, bypasses the part of the mind that is logical and educable and travels directly to the primitive brain, seat of instinct and memory.”

On another level, when it comes to the sense of touch, Kenya Hara, Chief Executive of Nippon Design, states that “Without resorting to new materials or abstraction we can infer that there is something vital in the domain of the senses.  That’s why we can understand the tactile sensation of a scrubbing brush without actually experiencing it.”

Something soft and warm can provide a feeling of comfort and safety whereas something cold and sharp to the touch may invoke a feeling of fear or danger.  What’s fascinating about Kenya Hara’s quote is that we do not actually need to experience the touch but just remember the tactile sensation to experience and remember it.

So how do we invoke these two senses when we communicate with others?

1000 Cranes, LLC  Naomi TakeuchiPowerhouse Tip of the Week:  When becoming a “Communication Powerhouse,” always consider how you are including all the senses in a speech.  When Ryan Avery creates a speech, he writes the entire speech out and then he uses five different highlighter pens to make sure that every sense is covered in his speeches.   By doing this, he can take a quick visual view of his speech to make sure he includes any neglected senses.   Taste and touch are especially the ones that we tend to forget when we are building our speeches and messages to others, yet these are important to reach different parts of the brain.


When creating a speech or speaking with someone, you may find that referring to a specific food can provide a more vivid description and detail.  For example, let’s take the phrase, “macaroni and cheese.”  This is a well known “comfort food” in the United States that many people take to parties to share and others turn to when wanting to feel nostalgic and safe.  Now let’s take that phrase and add “macaroni and greyere cheese where the there was so much cheese that the macaroni was floating in a fondue.”     So what happened here?  In the first phrase, you may have envisioned a version of a mac and cheese that came out of a box.  In the second version, the specific use of the Greyere cheese also gave you a clue regarding the specific taste.  In addition, this phrase also invoked some aspect of touch with the term “floating in fondue.”   The term “floating” gives you a sense of lightness which you can almost “touch” and the term fondue gives you also a sense of the gooey nature of the mac and cheese which has a different touch than a standard macaroni and cheese dish.  We didn’t change the phrase that much, but that attention to detail provided both aspects of taste and touch and richer detail than we would have had with a generic description.


In a speech my topic was “Commitment, Connection and Community.”  As part of the “Connection” discussion, I had placed Lego building blocks on the tables prior to my speech.  During the dinner, attendees were playing with the Legos and wondering, “why are these here?”  It was a way to introduce my topic in a tactile way BEFORE my speech.  After dinner, I said to the audience, “You may be wondering, why are these Legos on my dinner table?  The importance of connection comes when you can create something new when connecting very differently shaped objects which share the same beliefs and bonds.  One Lego alone may be beautiful, but Legos connected together can create a masterpiece.”  I later presented a masterful sculpture that one of the audience members had created in the afternoon which people were allowed to touch after the program.  The reinforcement of touch here also brought in an inclusiveness to the program where everyone could participate.  It didn’t matter what people built at their tables.  The important part was that they took the initiative to create something new with the pieces that were in front of them.  It was a very powerful message, and now when people see Legos, they think, “how can I connect with others?”

  • What do you want your audience members to believe after they hear you speak?
  • Are you using descriptive language to give your audience a chance to fully experience an event?
  • What do you do to engage the senses of taste and touch and are you making this intentional?

I look forward to your thoughts.