Prop up your speech

Technically, the 5-pound bag of cocaine was evidence. When the federal prosecutor held it while delivering his final argument to the jury, though, he was clearly using it as a prop.

It was a reminder to the jury of the scope of the federal drug and racketeering charges against the defendants. They weren’t petty criminals, he was saying, they were major drug dealers.

His handling that large bag of cocaine was one of the most memorable images from the trial I covered as a reporter. Over the years, several speakers I have seen created strong impressions using props. Another example: A Nikon representative stood on a 35mm camera body to show how strong it was (although he advised the audience not to try that at home).

You don’t need to carry a trunk of zany gadgets on stage, like the comedian Carrot Top. One simple item can drive home your key point. Are you telling a story about a letter from a customer? Hold up that letter. Are you talking about teamwork? Pass a football to members of the audience as you make your points.

Remember, Nikita Khrushchev used his shoe to drive home his point at the U.N. in 1960. Surely you can find a prop that emphasizes your message.

How have you seen a speaker effectively use a prop?

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3 responses to “Prop up your speech

  1. Back in April Nick Morgan reminded us how Grace Hopper used to illustrate a nanosecond by the length of wire that a signal could travel (about eleven inches):
    http://joyfulpublicspeaking.blogspot.com/2011/04/gigahertz-nanoseconds-grace-hopper-and.html

  2. Good points about the impact of props.

    Add this rule: When finished using the prop, put it away and out of sight of the audience. Otherwise it becomes a distraction.

    It’s the same reason the screen in a slide presentation should be periodically Blanked, bring the eyes of the audience towards the presenter.

    Thanks for the Post!

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