Presenting with Props: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

When giving a presentation props are usually a good idea. They grab the audience’s attention, give a visual representation and they add life to what could be yet another dreaded mandatory meeting. When are they not a good idea… when they are not rehearsed.

Using supportive material and visual aids during a presentation often proves awkward for speakers who lack practice in coordinating what they do at the podium with what they say. Rehearsal is the only solution for this. To arrive at a podium without ever having pressed the projector on cue is taking a foolish chance.

Rehearsal with visual aids should include thorough familiarization with the content of each individual aid, and actual practice in the use of equipment or performance of an action. If a blackboard illustration is to be drawn, it should be practiced at least once on the blackboard to be used in the actual presentation. If a movie or film strip is to be shown, preview it before presenting it.

Many presenters may also overlook what use to be the most commonly found prop, the microphone. However, you would be surprised at the amount of people that are unduly influenced by the presence of a microphone. With the modern equipment and techniques available today, it is often unnecessary to use one. Sound engineers, when present, give all of the necessary instructions and signals, and monitor and adjust the equipment to fit the individual. With public address systems, trainers will hear their own voices and be able to adjust position for optimal speaking distance. However, not all situations offer these modern conveniences. If the trainer feels uncomfortable using a microphone, it is doubly critical that the rehearsal include it, or a model if a real one is not available.