"What do you mean by props?" is a question many business speakers ask when they study my Write a Speech Now visual.
Props include any physical object that is 3-dimensional and that you and/or the audience can hold. Here are some props options for you to use in your speeches and presentations:
1) Objects you handle that demonstrate a concept or process. A recent speaker brought a box of blocks with him to use as he described how a process was assembled from a groups of separate ideas. By holding the 3-dimensional blocks and assembling them as he spoke he engaged the audience completely. Even though we didn't touch the blocks ourselves, we felt the size and shape of them and we felt the phsyical experience of building. This would never happen with slides, even animated ones.
How can you use physical objects to educate your audiences about how a process was built?
2) Pens and paper. Gift logo pens are ubiquitous and usually distributed and never mentioned. You can boost the stickiness of your ideas and your company by incorporating the use of your gift pen in your speech or presentation. If you don't give gift pens, you'll want to do this because of the stickiness factor.
Provide a sheet of paper that your audience can write on. Even in these digital times, people will write with pen on paper if you give meaning to it. The sheet can be designed with your company logo and your name and contact info but keep these marketing elements small. In the main white space include two or three opportunities for writing.
(i) You say: "Pick up your (company name) pen and write three steps you need to take to accomplish X (relevant to this audience)." Give them lines or blank space to write.
(ii) Design a simple crossword puzzle related to one section of your speech or presentation. Tell them they'll hear the answers to the various clues you've provided and to write them down when they hear them.
(iii) Using a pie chart or bar graph, give people a few moments to shade in the sections in a way that represents how much or how well they do something. Give them a scale for guidance. This is a powerful way for them to get insight into their behavior, both good and not so good.
The act of writing on paper strengthens the impact of your ideas because they are engaging the sense of touch/movement along with seeing and hearing. The more senses, the more stickiness.
What simple games or exercises can you use to engage your audiences' sense of touch and movement?
3) Physical objects related to an analogy. When I speak about networking I focus on the concept of the net. I use fish tank nets and fill them with various objects to make several points. I recently spoke about deception and opened with some images of magic. I used a few props to engage the audience with something familiar and fun before getting more serious about how deception can hurt. With my "One Life Many Journeys" keynote I want everyone to realize they can learn from the many paths they travel in their lives to create and strengthen their one life and I use a few props that relate to my various journeys.
What analogies do you use and what props reflect those analogies?
BONUS PROP TIP) Your product or a model of your product. I'm surprised by the many business speakers who show pictures of their products rather than the actual product. If your product is too large to carry around, invest in a small model of it. Several years ago one client's product was a training program installed on an iPod. I showed the speaker how to hold up an iPod and then emphasize the value of that by also holding up a 500-page printed manual as a comparison. The audience really got the point. This particular technique is now outdated; however, think about other ways to use physical objects as a means of comparison.
Share your stories about how you've used props in your speeches and presentations. Post your ideas in our comment box.