Friday, August 22, 2008

Give 'em props

Sometimes props can improve a speech. Both Tom Antion and Lenn Millbower have discussed the use of props as visual aids. A simple, inexpensive prop can be effective. Ellen Hermens describes a speaker who just placed a paper circle on the floor and stood on it to show that “this is my point of view”. Then he stepped away and took a critical look at that point of view from another angle.

To be effective a prop needs to be large enough to be seen by the entire audience. You can buy very realistic (and expensive) props from GreatBigStuff. Or, you can buy less expensive foam props from clown shops like PeachyKeene or Clown Antics.

There also are novelty suppliers like Archie Mcphee. Somewhere out there is a Toastmaster who would enjoy their giant inflatable mattress shaped like a slice of toast. They also have large pencils, pens, ears, scissors and hearts.

A great comedian can take a very simple prop and use it to tell many stories. The TV show “Whose Line is This Anyway?” had a segment just on props.

The most famous use of a prop in public speaking was by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev at the United Nations on October 12, 1960. Khrushchev simply pounded a shoe on the desk to emphasize his disgust at the remarks made by another speaker. His granddaughter Nina claimed this was an impromptu gesture. It had been a hot day. He had taken off his wristwatch and put it on the desk. Nikita’s new shoes were uncomfortably tight, so he’d taken them off and switched to his slippers. When he banged a fist on the desk he accidentally knocked the watch on the floor. Then he saw the shoes, picked one up, and even more loudly banged his way into history.

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