Video communication engages two senses of our five: sight and sound. But how can we stimulate the other three with the existing digital technology? Longtime public relations pro and “Zoom expert” Rosemary Ravinal says it can be done through the memory of how things taste, feel and smell.
“Video calls favor what we see over what we hear by a ratio of 90 to 10 percent,” she says. “That is because 90 percent of the information transmitted to the brain is visual. We are wired to process and remember what we see more quickly and accurately than what we hear.”
By Rosemary Ravinal
Visual elements help us understand and relate better to the content. That is why video conferencing is superior to audio-only teleconferencing for meetings that require close engagement, interaction, persuasion, and high retention of information.
With video meetings at the core of our work and personal lives, how can we tap the emotional power of smell, touch, and taste? Our five senses play an integral role in how we process emotions, how we learn, and how we make decisions. In a virtual environment where only sight and sound are available to us, how can we work in the others?
Each of our five senses stimulates a different part of the brain. Martin Lindstrom, Danish branding expert and author of Brand Sense: Sensory Secrets Behind the Stuff We Buy, said, “Almost our entire understanding of the world is experienced through our senses.” Lindstrom’s pioneering work on sensory marketing demonstrates how brands can create emotional associations with products and services by appealing to all our senses.
Some people have the extraordinary ability to experience one sense through another. That is, they can taste shapes and smell color. This rare neurological condition is called synesthesia. Only four percent of the population can “see” music as colors when they hear it, “taste” textures when they eat certain foods, and “smell” fragrances when they see flowers. People who are synesthetes are usually born with this ability or develop it in childhood. For the rest of us who can’t perceive multiple senses differently, it is memory and association that can stimulate our sensory receptors.
The psychological impact of color and smell has been prominent in food packaging. How often have we heard the expression, “Eat with your eyes?” The shape, smell and color of food affects how we perceive and consume it. Take the flavors of candy. Red suggests cherry, green is mint, orange is orange, and purple is grape.
So, how can you trigger sensory memory on Zoom?
You can do it with visual and auditory prompts.
Style your video shot with tasty and fragrant props.
The staging and styling of your video shot can include a bowl of juicy oranges or a vase of roses to insinuate their distinctive smells. A fresh-baked apple pie or a plate of chocolate chip cookies can add sensory dimension to your video. Just be certain that these are congruous with your message.
Choose colors that help convey your message.
Colors can enhance the sensory messages you convey to your audience depending on what you want to communicate. For example–with respect to sight, taste and smell–seeing a color may prompt any number of sensations. Green may be evocative of the scent of grass, lemon yellow may recall a sour taste, and pink may conjure the taste of bubble gum. You can tap the power of color in your choices of virtual backgrounds, props and décor for your physical set, and the clothes and accessories you wear.
Use sense-specific words in your speech.
Let’s take a cue from neurolinguistic programming techniques. There are NLP predicates that can create vivid associations with the senses that are unavailable to us on video conferences. Here are some examples you can work into what you say online:
TASTE: Sweet thing to say.
Idea seasoned with humor.
A bitter memory.
Appetite for something.
SMELL: Smells like roses.
Under your nose.
Smells fishy to me.
Ideas that stink.
You can come up with your own list based on your industry, profession and cultural background.
Branding guru, author, and speaker Bruce Turkel says that using all five senses is one of the seven pillars of successful brand communication. He writes in Building Brand Value: “To communicate effectively, you must be sure that you’re engaging as many of your audience’s senses as possible and that you are doing it in a positive way.” Great advice, Bruce.
If we can interject smell, taste, and touch into our online digital conversations, we will be taking a baby step toward making virtual more human.
Try it and let me know how it FEELS.