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The Art of Props: Why Your Presentation Might Need It

When we think of props, we often remember scenes from our 6th-grade science class. We don’t usually associate the use of props in professional presentations.

However, as Bill Gates demonstrated in his memorable TED Talk on ‘Mosquitoes, malaria, and education‘, props offer an easy way to demonstrate concepts that might be hard to explain. Sometimes, it’s not enough to project an image on the screen. The audience needs to see things first hand in order to understand the weight and impact of what you’re trying to share.

In his speech, Gates conveys a sense of urgency that might not have been as apparent to the audience. To get his point across, he released mosquitoes he kept in a jar. He wanted the audience to at least have a closer look at what hundreds of communities experience in the developing world.

As demonstrated by this TED Talk, if you can find the perfect prop that could elevate your core message, you’ll be able to turn conceptual ideas into concrete and observable objects.

The audience can see exactly what you’re trying to point out and connect with it right away. This also makes your presentation far more memorable. Because you decided to show them something that isn’t usually part of professional presentations, props can only help you stand out even more.

How do you find the perfect prop? 

Now that we’ve covered why your presentations need to utilize props, it’s time to learn more about making the most of this tool.

First, you need to consider what kind of prop works well with your presentation. According to Andrew Dlugan of Six Minutes, these are questions to ask yourself when choosing the perfect prop:

  • How is your prop relevant to the topic? – Obviously, it’s important that your props will illuminate the points in your presentation. Choose objects that are directly related to your presentation, or something that symbolizes your points and work as a metaphor.
  • Can everyone see the prop from where they’re seated? – Aside from its significance in your presentation, the props you use should also be large enough for everyone in the audience to see. However, it shouldn’t be too large that you can’t manipulate it with ease.
  • Will it add value to your presentation? – Lastly, it’s also important that props help give a detailed explanation of your points. Like Bill Gates’ mosquitoes in a jar, props should illuminate your message.

Taking your props to stage 

Having carefully chosen the props you want to use, it’s time to learn how you can best wield them for maximum result.

Always plan how the prop will play into your presentation. Your props will need to come out during significant points in your delivery.

Demonstrating a prop can help capture the attention of your audience. Better yet, you can use a prop to illustrate some key points and add further interest in your discussion. Whatever you decide, it’s important to plan when and how you’ll use them.

Part of your planning should include where you’ll position the prop for the audience to see. As mentioned earlier, everyone in the audience must be able to see your demonstration.

Aside from making sure that your prop is large enough for everyone to see, you also need to make sure it’s placed in the right spot. If you can examine the venue before your presentation, try to take note of where your props might be able to attract the most eyes.


With all the planning done, make sure that everything runs smoothly. If you want to transition smoothly from discussing slides to demonstrating how a prop works, familiarize yourself with rehearsals. Don’t just practice your speech and movements. Incorporate your props into it as well.

Once in front of the audience, show them your prop’s significance. As you work through your demonstration, explain how it helps your message become more concrete. Let them see how tangible your ideas can be.



How to Create a STAR Moment for Your Presentations.” SlideGenius, Inc.. September 25, 2014. Accessed January 12, 2015.
How to Choose and Use Speech Props: A Speaker’s Guide.” Six Minutes. August 21, 2013. Accessed January 12, 2015.
Improve Your Presentations with the Power of the Metaphor.” SlideGenius, Inc.. November 17, 2014. Accessed January 12, 2015.
Mosquitos, malaria and education. Bill Gates. TED, 2009.


Featured Image: C x 2 via Flickr

Why You Need Props at Your Next Presentation

Props in Presentations

When you hear the word “prop” do you think of those cotton horse heads on a stick that the actors pretend to ride around on?

The truth is props are universally profiled as cheesy theatrical objects, much like the horse on a stick, good only for middle-school plays. Because of this, props are obsolete in the eyes of the typical presenter, and that’s a problem.

While by definition, the word “prop” does refer to theatrical property, its purpose is overlooked. Any given prop is used to add realism to a given story and to help advance the narrative in a more palpable way. This idea is directly transferable and applicable to any corporate presentation, PowerPoint presentation, or sales pitch.

By thinking of props as relics of the past, we are blinding ourselves of the many creative and effective ways to utilize props in today’s world.

Here’s my favorite example:

Italian entrepreneur and television host Marco Montemagno is the renowned founder of digital domination summit.Digital Domination Summit is a free online event, featuring prerecorded video messages & video interviews from up to 30 leading authorities on how to do business in the digital world”. Montemagno’s also hosts live talks that are are known to be among the most engaging and intriguing throughout of Italy and Europe for that matter. He focuses on the topic of Internet culture. His talks revolve around showing Italians why the Internet should be embraced and not feared. Montemagno presents to audiences of up to 3,000 people in cities including Milan, Rome, and Venice. In spite of his goal to bridge a divide between his technical expertise and the everyday language of his audience, Montemagno uses devices meant to engage his listeners, namely props.

Montemagno’s audience members get a pen and paper before taking their seats. During the presentation, he asks them to turn to the person to their right and in 30 seconds sketch their portrait. He then asks them to write the title of their favorite song, movie, etc. They pass the paper around and repeat the process until the paper has changed hands up to five times. Each audience member then takes home a piece of paper that once belonged to someone else. The exercise is intended to demonstrate how information is shared among individuals across networks.

Montemagno shows us a unique and creative medium through which to apply props. He takes a complex subject, and simplifies to an experience that every member of the audience can feel, and therefore remember vividly. This is what props are useful for, helping the audience feel, understand, and remember. If you manage to get your audience to go through these three sensations about  you and your PowerPoint presentation, you will find your business reaching new heights!

3 Reasons Why You’ll Benefit from Using Props:

 Your presentations will be more memorable. Sure, you can repeat the same description of your product 12 times, and increase audience retention, or you can just bring out the actual product, explain it once, and get the same effect.

You can apply them as effective metaphors. Using props as metaphors are great way to get your audience’s attention in a matter of a few seconds.

You will create emotional impact. While facts and stats will tell, emotion will sell!


“Digital Domination Summit 2013.” Wired UK. June 28, 2013.

Gallo, Carmine. “Using Props to Improve Your Presentations.” January 27, 2009.

“How Do Props Help a Presentation?” Manner of Speaking. September 25, 2011.

Putting Your Presentation before Your PowerPoint.SlideGenius. December 9, 2013.

Ten Tips for Using Props in a Presentation.Manner of Speaking. September 28, 2011.