Why jelly babies (and other props) can improve your presentations

By: Steve Bustin

Date: 3 January 2017

Why jelly babies (and other props) can improve your presentationsLet's bust a myth. You do not need slides in order to give a presentation or make a speech.

The best speakers and presenters have embraced a world without slides. Speaking without slides means the audience is looking at you and listening to what you say rather than reading from the screen in front of them.

But, you still need to bring your presentation to life. Here are my top five ways to make your speech engaging, interactive and fun:

Flip charts and whiteboards: The beauty of using these tools is that you can generate visual aids and engaging visual content live. Just the fact that the information appears slowly as pen crosses paper means the audience can follow along and will remember it more easily. It might seem low-tech but they've endured for a reason.

Props: Remember the adage "show, don't tell". Let the audience, see, feel, touch and somehow experience whatever you're talking about. Don't forget – audiences love a sample.

Build something live: Use a prop such as Lego bricks to build something live in front of your audience. For example, a giant bar chart or a model of your new product. It's a great way to help audiences remember.

Food and drink: People like cake. Or sweets. Or drinks. They enjoy feeling as though they're getting something tasty for free. But food or drink can also be used very effectively to make a point.

I've seen jelly babies used at a board meeting to illustrate the breakdown of staff contracts. Of course, as soon as the presentation was over, everyone at the meeting then devoured the jelly "workforce". I've also seen beer being poured into different sized containers to illustrate a presentation about electoral reform. Both those presentations stick in my head because I saw the message created and represented in front of me. And because I like jelly babies and beer.

Audience interaction

A presentation is a two-way process. There needs to be interaction and connection between the presenter and the audience. Here are a few things to try:

Ask questions and encourage discussion: Getting responses from your audience keeps things interactive and allows you to find out how much knowledge your audience already has, and also to check that they are understanding and absorbing what you're talking about.

Votes and straw polls: Ask your audience what they think about something. Ask for a show of hands to find out their preferred option or even to form a line across a room to indicate their strength of feeling on an issue, from "completely agree" to "completely disagree". It can be fascinating to repeat a vote at the end of your presentation, to see whether anything has changed.

Social media: If there is no hashtag set for the event, announce one for your presentation and encourage people to tweet their comments or questions. At the end have a look at Twitter and read out audience comments and answer their questions.

Have a Q&A: This is probably the oldest, simplest and often most effective form of audience engagement. You should let an audience know at the beginning of your presentation when they can ask questions or if you are happy to take questions all the way through. If you're not sure your presentation is engaging your audience then scrapping your prepared content and going into a Q&A means the audience can dictate what you talk about, making it far more likely that they'll get what they need from your session.

The best approach is a mix of all the above. Vary it throughout your presentation. Constantly surprise your audience to keep them engaged – and they'll never even notice the lack of a slide, a clicker or a bullet point.

Sponsored post. Copyright © 2016 Steve Bustin, author of The Authority Guide to Presenting and Public Speaking.