Using Props For Effective Speaking


Using Props For Effective Speaking

Effective Speaking - Presentation TipsHave you ever sat listened to a presentation or speech, (especially first session in the afternoon after a heavy lunch), and struggled to keep your eyes open? As you listen to the presenter drone on, your eyes get heavier and heavier, and you experience sheer ecstasy when you close them even for a split second. But then, your head jolts! You wonder if you have been asleep for minutes? Did I snore? Is everyone looking at me? We have all possibly experienced that feeling, and nothing could be worse, nothing that is, unless you are the person speaking! You stand at the front and look out at the sea of faces, “the lights are on, but no one is at home!” With a little creativity, public speaking and presentations can come alive and keep an audience engaged. In this post I want to show how using props for effective speaking has helped me capture attention, how a hose pipe, bread making machine and a lump of clay added a different dimension to presentations I have made, and how these ideas may help you bring your next speech alive.

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Tom Stoppard, the British playwright, said, “You can’t but know that if you can capture the emotions of the audience as well as their minds, the play will work better, because it’s a narrative art form.” I think the same could be said about public speaking and making presentations, it is an art form. I am on a quest to help people become “artful speakers” being confident, practised and proficient when speaking in public sets people apart. The difference between boring and captivating is often very little. Learning some basic techniques, along with creativity and rehearsal, can help you stand out in boardrooms, lecture halls and sales presentations. Confidence on your feet can lead to promotion, influence and even more sales. One way you can do this is by adding an appropriate “prop” to illustrate a point for effective speaking and capture attention in your next presentation.

The Feeling of Fear

Effective SpeakingThere are hundreds if not thousands of documented phobias. Obviously, the fear of speaking in public (Glossophobia) is high on the list. While I would not want to make light of any fear that people have, there are some documented phobias that the just make one wonder! There is Anglophobia Which is the fear of England, Chorophobia, the fear of dancing, and Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia, which is the fear of long words! There has to be some irony in there somewhere! Another common fear, and this would be one of mine, is ophiophobia – the fear of snakes. Once I was speaking on the nature of fear and how fear can strangle opportunity from our lives. There are some things that we should genuinely fear, but quite often what we fear and what consumes our emotions is ungrounded and unlikely to happen. To illustrate the point I had on the stage a large hessian sack and a hose pipe had been coiled up inside and I explained that it was a snake. You could immediately sense the tension in the room rise. Unknown to the audience, I had attached to the sack some nylon fishing line and this was being held by an assistant. At the given moment, a significant tug on this fishing line caused the sack to lurch forward towards the audience! The people in the front row shot out of their seats and headed for the door! After the uproar had died down, I opened the bag (some were still very trepidatious) and held up the hose pipe and said, “what we fear, is often unfounded, it feels like fear, it causes us to react like fear, but it is a wasted emotion, what are you fearing that isn’t real?” The point was made, and effective speaking made stronger because of a visual prop of a hose pipe in a hessian sack.

The Aroma of Bread

Another time, I was speaking in NewSong Community Church, on how people’s names describe their characters. We know that many names have a meaning behind them, in ancient Hebrew and Greek literature, the persons name was extremely symbolic about their character. That day I was speaking on how Jesus called himself “The Bread of Life.” When I think of bread, it’s the smell of new baked bread that comes to mind, it’s a distinctive aroma for me, it conjures up images of sustenance, home and safety. I arrived early and set up some home bread making machines in the church and timed them so as I was starting to speak about “The Bread of Life” the aroma of baking bread would be starting to drift around the room. The look on peoples faces as their noses picked up the distinctive smell, getting stronger and stronger as I spoke was captivating. You could hear people whispering, “can you smell bread cooking?” I concluded my speech, the timers buzzed and I revealed the bread making machines. As I took the hot bread and we passed the loaf around the congregation to take and eat some, it made the point stick even more memorably because the smell of the bread had added another dimension to the presentation.

The Potters Hand

Effective Speaking Using PropsIn a speech on how experiences, good and bad, shape us to become the people we are, and how we can either “respond” or “react” to experiences, (obviously, one is better than the the other) I wanted to find a way to visually represent this idea that would help the message stick. Sometimes, it’s very difficult in life when tough circumstances often beyond our control, often unjust, often random and unexplainable happen to us, to try make sense of the event. To illustrate this “shaping” in our lives, as I walked on the stage so did a sculptor. She stood right next to me and I acted as if nobody was there and she proceed to get a lump of clay and start to mould it. As the speech progressed, she bashed the clay and rolled it, it was difficult to concentrate and pretend she wasn’t there! Eventually, she created a beautiful vase out of the lump of clay. My key point was though we often can’t see why things happen to us, how we respond to them can often be the making of something good in our lives, not everything that happens to us is good, but somehow, someway, sometimes, good can come from bad circumstances. As the clay got shaped, so do we, and the image of the clay being transformed made the point even clearer as people saw this happening right in front of them as I spoke.

Using props for effective speaking can make all the difference to keeping an audience engaged on your message. How could you use a prop next time you speak to make a point even more memorable? Many speakers use visual aid when presenting, almost all business presentations have the obligatory PowerPoint slides, but please don’t make the #1 mistake when preparing for your next speech! Being creative with visual aids can enhance a presentation even more, making it memorable and setting you apart as a “artful speaker.”

I would love to hear stories how you have been using props for effective speaking, to create attention, become remarkable and establish a memory in the minds of an audience. Let’s start a conversation! You can email me here or tweet me here.

Images: HessianBreadPotter
Photo Credit: Florian SEROUSSI via Compfight cc

By Peter Billingham


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Posted on by Peter Billingham in Blog Posts, Creativity, Public Speaking, Speech Writing

About Peter Billingham

Leader, Learner, Speechwriter, Storyteller, Author. a.k.a. 'The Artful Speaker' Enjoy working on social action projects, Toastmasters, films & adventure travel.

2 Responses to Using Props For Effective Speaking

  1. Peitho

    The bread and the snake transformed those speeches into “performance art”. How imaginative of you–magical and marvelous!

    • Peter Billingham

      Thanks! Yes, they added another dimension and certainly made them more memorable!

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