I look at FEAR as False Expectations Appearing Real—if we think it, it usually becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
For years, I was afraid to speak in public and still remember forgetting my 7th grade speech where I had to recite the Gettysburg Address!
Now when I teach public speaking and sales skills, I give my clients simple tactics and strategies to get their points across and also get over the ‘anxiety’ and fear that we self create.
"Prop Up" Your Speaking
What do color, motion, and sound all have in common? They are the basic ingredients of props that make presentations more engaging. Most professional speakers at some time use props to enhance their presentations, which can turn a program into a dramatic and engaging event. "Prop" is a short word for the theatrical term "property." It describes an item used by an actor during a performance. Most speakers’ props deal with the senses of sight and sound or, in some cases, help to prompt lively audience interactions. As a speaker, it’s your job to find creative ways to keep your audience with you from beginning to end. Props help make that happen.
Before I share with you some "show stopping" techniques for using props, let’s take a look at some basic guidelines:
Bigger than life. Props need to be large enough so that the people farthest from you can enjoy what you are doing with them. Sometimes speakers hold up a newspaper to show an unusual headline. However, it is unreadable for someone sitting more than five or six rows back. In this case, putting the headline on a Power Point slide or an overhead transparency would solve the problem.
Keep it a secret. I am about to give you a rule that can be broken. In most cases, keep your props hidden until you are ready to make them the focus of your presentation. If you have a funny and colorful stuffed animal sitting off to the side, it could draw people’s attention, which would distract your audience, especially if it is used at the end of your program.
Slow down. Show props to the audience very slowly. Remember, people need a few seconds to focus on the item, and maybe they have just lifted their heads from writing some notes. So if you quickly hold up something and put it down in a few seconds, many people might miss the point. It’s best to hold it up, stretch your arm out far to the right, and then slowly move your arm out far to the left. Then you can be sure everyone can see the item.
Objects to Make a Point
Many kinds of props can be used to make your presentation more memorable. Some speakers will go as far as wearing a gorilla costume or a funny wig. Strange and unusual items can be memorable, yet could be perceived as too silly, so discretion is advised. The following suggestions are effective props that work for me:
Money makes the world go around. As you step up to the microphone, tape a $20 bill on the podium. However, start your presentation without mentioning anything about it. Your audience will wonder what it’s for. After speaking for about five to 10 minutes, I ask the audience, "Did anyone notice the $20 bill?" Usually a number of hands go up. Then I ask, "Why didn’t you ask about it?" and say, "Whoever wants it, come up and get it." Finally someone does, and I tell the audience, "That person had G.O.Y.A.: Get Off Your Anatomy." This is especially effective for training people to be more assertive when seeking sales opportunities.
Rock and sand. Solid business relationships are built on firm foundations of long-term and trusting relationships. To illustrate this point, put your hand under a rock and lift it up to show how solid it is and how it holds together. Then, put your hand in a bucket of sand and let the sand run through your fingers. Follow up by saying that it took thousands of years for this rock to be formed, and the same is true with solid business relationships. Tell the audience to take time in building something solid, otherwise they’ll find their businesses sinking in the sand.
People props. We all need some encouragement to do better in life. One way to help people understand their greater potential is to ask everyone to stand up and raise their hands as high as they can go. Then say, "Now stretch a half inch higher." They always go a little higher on the second try. Finally, I say, "What’s my point? You can always reach a little higher to your potential!"
Let’s break it up. In some sessions, small break-out group activities are effective ways to help people learn. However, many employees do what I call "stick to the clique." To help people learn how to work with new contacts, I give out different types of candy bars and ask them to break into groups according to the name of the candy bar they received. Then I ask them to create a marketing campaign to re-launch their particular candy bar. As an incentive, I tell them that they cannot eat the candy until each group presents their campaign to everyone else. This is good for almost any business environment because it gets people thinking about the sales and marketing process.
Everyone loves a prize. In some of my seminars, I give out fun premiums when people answer a question or really get involved. I give them prizes such as candy kisses, Life Savers with dollar bill wrappings, or catchy pins with interesting quotes. When people start to look forward to receiving those kinds of gifts, your presentations become more alive. You could also do this in the form of a raffle. Give out a sheet of paper to be filled in with the person’s name and a question that he or she hopes to get answered by the end of the session. This technique will help keep your audience’s attention. It will also give you some input on what modifications you can immediately make to better meet their needs. I give away great-looking pens or business card cases as prizes. If you have a book or tape series, people would love to win that, too.
Props can also help trigger a story or illustration you want to make without looking at your notes, which is a major benefit. For example, if I was trying to illustrate the importance of making progress, I would bring a pair of sneakers, a bicycle tire, a model of a car, and a model of a Concorde plane. Then, starting with the sneakers, I would say that when people wanted to get from point "A" to point "B," their feet were the only means of transportation, and I would work my way up to the Concorde. Finally, I would close by saying that this applies to all of us. When we make progress, we can expect our lives to dramatically improve as we go along. This is a win/win technique because you will have some interesting props to keep the audience’s attention, and your presentation will stay on track. You also won’t have to look at your notes too much.
Keep in mind the benefits of using props:
- They take conceptual information and make it tangible.
- People remember visuals more than they remember words.
- They can help a speaker release nervous energy by focusing on them (remember to keep looking at the audience and avoid staring at the props).
- Props, like pictures, are worth a thousand words because they can be used as a short cut to make an important point.
Think of it this way: let’s say the content for two speakers’ programs were identical. However, one speaker stood behind the podium and spoke for 45 minutes. The other speaker used a megaphone to announce how the session would benefit the audience, had them create a new product using Play Dough, and finished by giving everyone a gift certificate for ice-cream. Which session would you attend?"