5 tips for presentation props

Spiro the bear.jpeg

The final speaker for the Memorial Service approached the lectern. He had in his hand, a small, tan teddy bear. He placed it on top of the podium where we could all see it. The audience was curious. Why did the presenter bring a teddy bear? What was it doing there?

He then launched into his story. At a certain point in his speech, He picked up the teddy bear and introduced him as Spiro. It was at this point that he revealed the meaning of his prop. That teddy bear became a visual anchor for his message. The presenter could have created a word picture, but it wouldn't have been as memorable or as poignant as a physical prop. The audience was moved and broke into applause. 

Not every speech or presentation needs a prop; but when they are well placed they can make your presentation more memorable, more moving, and more magnificent. But they have to be used correctly.

When using props as a public speaker keep these guidelines in mind:

Relevant. Ask yourself if you really need a prop. A prop should have a clear purpose so that it underscores your message. Don't use a prop just to have something to play with. If it doesn't add value and serve as an anchor for the audience, you probably don't need it.

Visible. When it comes to props, size matters. That is, if you're speaking in a ballroom, the prop may be difficult to see in the back row. One way around this to is have dual video screens that can zoom in on the prop. Another consideration is where you place the prop. Hold a prop shoulder-height. It should be high enough to be seen without obstructing your face.

Timing. When should you reveal a prop? Most experts might say to wait until a critical moment. In the case of the public speaker in the above video, he placed it on the lectern immediately. By doing so, it created anticipation. Rehearse both ways to determine which will work best. A prop can peak curiosity but shouldn't  be a distraction.

Right number. Limit the number of props. One prop will work well as a focal point. Less is more. When presenters continue to pull props from their bag of tricks, they can start to look like magicians. The audience becomes confused and the presenter will lose the magic.

Ease of Use. Practice using the prop in your speech until your presentation is seamless. If you are clumsy or your timing is off, the prop will anchor your nervousness and not your desired effect.

Remember these tips the next time you speak in public and you'll be able to prop up any presentation.