During your public speaking course you will learn how to properly use
props throughout your presentation. The term "prop" is actually a shortened version of the theatrical
word "property," which is used to describe any object handled
or used by an actor in a performance. Professional speaking is technically
a performance art, and as a speaker you have an obligation to use whatever means necessary to get your message
across to the audience the best way possible.
I think of props as any physical item that is on stage with you. Your
flipchart is a prop. Your lectern is a prop. Overhead projectors,
pointers, notes, chairs, markers, pens, and other audio/visual aids
all forms of props. Conversely, props are a form of visual aid.
Why use these props?
Using props to help warm
up the audience when you do a presentation. They can be used as
a substitute for notes. They help focus attention on the speaking
points you are trying to make along with illustrating them for you.
Using props can help you make better connections than your words to
the visually oriented members of your audience. Props create interest, add
variety, and make your points more memorable.
Props can be used before the program starts to pass around to the audience
anticipation of the program. You see this at large arenas when beach
balls and Frisbees are being tossed around in the crowd. I pass out
snacks and/or custom-designed crossword puzzles about the group that
make on my computer. The puzzles make especially great icebreakers
because the members of the group get together to help each other with
Do you hate relying on notes? Props can be a substitute for written
cheat sheets. To illustrate this in live seminars and television
interviews I use three hats as an outline for a program. The first hat
is a gag ball cap that has really long hair attached to it so that you
look like a hippie when you wear it. The second hat is a black top
hat. The third is a safari hat. Each hat prompts me to talk about a
thoroughly rehearsed "bit or chunk" .
Putting on the longhaired ball cap immediately reminds me to talk about
when the company was young and aggressive. After that section I remove
the ball cap (if you have a fun and playful audience, you could put
on an audience member's head), then I put on the black top hat. The
top hat prompts a section on the mature growth years of the company.
then put on the safari hat which kicks off a section on searching for
new business. The whole talk is done without any notes at all. You
only have to memorize your opening and closing and practice each of
sections independently as you learned in a previous issue. When you
participate in my public speaking course you will see how all of these
things come into practice.
Didn't someone say a prop is worth a thousand words? Maybe that was
picture, but its just about the same thing. Many times a well selected
prop will illustrate your point much better than you could ever do in
words. Having good skills from your public speaking course involves painting a picture
minds of your audience, with words, with tone, with timing, with movements, and with props.
A prop also directs the attention directly on the point you are trying
make. People can zone out easily on your words, but a unique prop is hard to ignore. Also, the visually oriented people in your
audience will perk up and get more value when you use props. That way
you are "painting the picture" for people in the audience who
are more visual learners.
Being remembered is another good reason to use props. People remember
pictures far longer than words. Good public speakers know that the images
will be remembered when the words are long forgotten. If you are not
a great storyteller yet, you can use props to help create these pictures.
Types of props
There are many different kinds of props that can be used to your
advantage in a public speech. Extra large or extra small props are
funny. Noisemakers are funny. Even though you are attacking the sense
of hearing, you are attacking it in a unique way that makes it almost
unforgettable. Costumes and magic tricks make good props. A painter
brushes and a palette to paint a picture, a good public speaker uses
words and props or much more to paint pictures for the mind's eye to
I have a friend who speaks on having good telephone skills. He uses
telephone receiver to make a point about the importance of phone
skills. I used a clown prop to make the serious point that if we went
through with this merger it would be like being in a thunderstorm with
a clown umbrella (for those of you that do not know, a clown umbrella
is only about 8 inches in diameter). In your public speaking course
you will learn how to creatively use props to convey a message.
Noisemakers are fun. I recommended that a sales manager get one of
those expressway revenge devices that makes machine gun, ray gun, and
bomb noises when you press a button. If XYA company gets in our way,
this is what will do to them (he pressed the machine gun button while
holding the device near the microphone). He got his point across.
I have worn gorilla costumes, brought full-size mannequins on stage
kicked them around. I have done simple magic tricks and many other
things to get my point across in a more memorable and interesting
fashion. Making a point, and making it memorable, are key aspects to
You don't necessarily have to do wild things to use props. A very
creative friend of mine, Carolyn Long, was going to speak about the
keys to creativity. She opened by holding up keys, then discarded them
in favor of a combination lock. Her point was made. The combination
of your message, your passion, and using what you learned in your
public speaking course will
unlock the future for you, and for your audiences.
Tips for using props
* Normally you should keep your special props hidden until you are
ready to use them.
* Make sure the prop can be seen from all parts of the room.
* ALWAYS speak to the audience, not the prop (unless the prop is a
* Make sure the audience is focused on surprise props before you
unleash the surprise.
(For example, if using a fake peanut can with pop out snakes, hold the
can in full view for an extra second before you open it so the audience
does not miss it). In other words, let the prop have its full effect.
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