Getting the balance right between speaking and entertaining can be made easier by using props for impact. As well as understanding the audience, marking out the stage and learning those lines, a slick, confident use of props can keep people engaged for longer.

Not all props have to be akin to a magic trick, but whatever the prop, there are a few rules to adhere to:-


Whatever the prop, it must be relevant to the topic, either in explanation or example. In my case I use the water for reference to the combined material being digested at a meeting and the magic effect to cement the details to memory.  It works every time, but only because the accompanied words keep it relevant. If I just stood there and performed the trick, the room would soon begin to wonder if I’d lost my way, or my marbles?


No matter what size the room or the prop, it must be visible to everyone.  You can see that I hold the cup and bottle up high to ensure maximum exposure. When there’s a message to get across, it needs to reach the back of the room as well as the front.

Prop Count

Try and limit to no more than 4 props or you could be at risk of coming across rather cabaret. The props are there to enhance the narrative, not distract from it. Being over busy in front of the audience will result in the room losing focus and veering away from topic.

Keep it Clean

No this isn’t a reference to the jokes, it’s a note to clear away the props after use. Cleanly and without fuss, putting the props away is as important as the handling of them.

Hide and Seek

If possible keep the props hidden until required. If, like myself, the props are part of the scenery, don’t draw attention to them until required. Using an object like a cup and water that’s been sitting in front of the audience throughout works really well as it seems to bring an added element of surprise, the “Oh I wasn’t expecting that”!

As with the presentation itself it’s important to get to know your prop. Retrieving, handling and disposing of the prop needs to be slick, comfortable and well rehearsed. Think Mr Clean, not Mr Bean.

Should Props Shock?

There isn’t anything wrong with having an element of surprise in a prop and I’m pretty sure the lady whose head I hold the cup of water over would admit to being slightly shocked, but it’s all about time and place.

The master of this was Steve Jobs, who Fast Company remind us

Bill Gates was in the middle of making a passionate plea for malaria relief in a 2009 TED Talk before an audience in Long Beach, California, when he did something shocking.

He reached for a jar, unscrewed the lid, and released a cloud of mosquitos into the room, saying: “Not only poor people should experience this.”

That certainly made the audience sit up and listen.

For help and guidance getting your speaking presentation to it’s best, I’d like to help. My Presentation Tips package is being offered to you at a reduced price.

For other ideas, suggestions and self taught tips see my website David

Image by Chiemsee2016