Hearing the word prop may evoke an image of a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. And while I'd be the first to suggest that a good presentation does have an element of magic, props in a business presentation serve a much more worldly purpose: to aid the audience's understanding and involvement.
Supporting your verbal delivery, props can:
- be stronger than words since they are concrete and visual -- when talking about how to dress for a presentation, show pictures or actual pieces of jewelry that could distract the audience
- reinforce and strengthen a point being made with words -- when talking about the amount of paper a new computer process will save, show the actual stack of paper
- grab attention, particularly when you show something unexpected -- when you're talking about creating a 'magic moment' for customers when they interact with your company, dress in a magician's cape
- inject humor -- when talking about an existing product being a cash cow, hold up a plush cow with dollar bills stuck all over it
Props certainly can be excellent ways of injecting fun and surprise into your presentation but beware of appearing too gimmicky. Know your audience and what they will find appropriate so you don't compromise your credibility.
HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH PROPS
If used incorrectly or awkwardly, props can derail your presentation rather than enhance it. Consider these best practices:
- If the props you use have any moving parts, make sure everything works as it's supposed to. You don't want a prop to malfunction in the middle of your presentation. Keep your props clean and replace anything that shows wear.
- Keep your prop(s) hidden until you're going to use it to heighten the element of surprise and ensure you get maximum impact from using it.
- Props should always be large enough for the audience to see. When presenting to a large audience, you may need to make some adjustments so your props will have the impact you desire.
- Assess your comfort level with using a particular prop (like the magician's cape above). If the prop makes you feel unprofessional or foolish, you likely won't be your best, confident self.
- As with other aspects of a presentation, practice ahead of time with the timing and handling of your prop(s) so your use of it is smooth and seamless.
Bottom line, props can add greatly to a presentation, making it more enjoyable, impactful, understandable and memorable for the audience. Props, however, won't mask a weak presentation. Ultimately you want to be remembered for the value of your message, not that you pulled a rabbit out of a hat.
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