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Public Speaking Course: 

Props

In your public speaking course I will show you how to use props to add some fun to your presentation. The term "prop" is actually a shortened version of the theatrical word "property," which is used to describe any object that is handled or used by an actor during a performance. Since professional public speaking is a type of performance art, you as a speaker have an obligation to use whatever it takes to get your message across in the right way.

Props are a kind of visual aid. I define props as any physical item that is on stage with you. Your
flipchart is considered a prop. Your podium is a prop. Overhead projectors, pointers, notes, chairs, markers, pens, and other audio/visual aids are all types of props. 

Why use these props?

Using props can help warm up the audience before your presentation. They can be used as
a replacement for notes that help trigger your bits. They can help focus attention on the important
points you are trying to make while illustrating it 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 even starts,  to pass around to the audience in
anticipation of the presentation. You see this in practice at large arenas when beach
balls are being bounced around in the crowd. I pass out snacks or custom-designed crossword puzzles about the group that I made on my computer. The puzzles are great to get the audience to start interacting with each other to to help solve the questions.

Do you hate relying on notes? Props can be a substitute for written
cheat sheets. For example, in one of my live seminars and television
interviews I used three hats as an outline for my program. The first hat
was 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 was a black top
hat. The third was a safari hat. Each hat prompted me to talk about a
thoroughly rehearsed "bit or chunk" .

Putting on the longhaired ball cap reminded me to talk about
when the company was young and aggressive. After that section was over I took off
the ball cap (if you have a fun and playful audience, you could put it
on an audience member's head), then put on the black top hat. The
top hat prompted a section on the mature growth through the years of the company. I
then put on the safari hat which kicked off a section on searching for
new business. The whole speech is done without any notes at all. You
only have to memorize your opening and closing and practice each of the
sections independently as you learned in your public speaking course. When you participate in my public speaking course you will see how all of these things come into practice.

Didn't someone once say a prop is worth a thousand words? Or maybe that was a
picture. I guess its just about the same thing. Many times a well chosen prop will get your point across much better than what you say ever could. Remember from your public speaking course that you must paint a picture in the minds of your audience, with words, with tone, with timing, with movements, and with props.

A prop also directs the attention completely on the point you are trying to 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 for the audience. 

Types of props

There are many different forms of props that you can use to your advantage while presenting. Extra large or extra small props are more 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.

I have a friend who does a presentation on using good telephone skills. He uses a giant
telephone receiver to make a point about the importance of those 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 your particular message.

Noisemakers are fun. I told a sales manager once to 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 and the audience had a good laugh.

I have worn gorilla costumes, brought full-size mannequins on stage and
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 interesting presentations.

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 so not to distract the audience from what you are saying.

* Make sure the prop can be seen from every part of the room.

* ALWAYS speak to the audience, not the prop (unless the prop is a
puppet).

* 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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