Most of us are familiar with using visual aids in our public speaking. Even if you are not an active public speaker yourself it is pretty certain that you have suffered from the odd day or two of 'death by PowerPoint'. There are alternatives.
One of the most memorable presentations I ever saw used a child's toy as a prop. Jon was a project team leader. He had to give an update on his project to a group of team leaders, project managers and support staff. An audience of twenty five to thirty in all.
On the face of it his subject matter was not that great. He was responsible for the implementation of a payroll outsourcing service. The client was a pubic service works company. They were particularly well known as refuse collectors in the London area though the services they offered were much more wide ranging.
All in all, the client employed around 20,000 monthly paid staff and almost 10,000 weekly paid workers. At $2.00 a payslip this deal was worth just short of $1.5m per year. No small matter for a relatively junior project leader.
I was a bit surprised that Jon didn't prepare any slides. Instead he turned up with a large plastic supermarket bag. When it came to his turn to present Jon stood up with his bag in his hand. He outlined the basic details above. And then reached into his bag and pulled out a pretty well used and abused child's toy. It was a battered refuse truck.
Jon then proceeded to use features of the toy to illustrate his project.
To start with Jon pointed out that the two characters in the cab of the truck were not looking at each other. He used this to describe the relationship between the client's project manager and their existing payroll manager. They didn't get on, weren't communicating with each other or him.
He then spun one of the wheels it was distinctly wonky (does that translate in American?). When pushed the truck moved reluctantly and erratically. Again Jon used this to describe the difficulties in maintaining progress, directions and momentum.
The presentation continued in this vein for some time. Each quirk of the truck was used to illustrate some feature of the project. All delivered with wit and controlled humour.
Once we understood the difficulties Jon then explained what he had done to correct each problem. The wheels were aligned and balanced, the headlight fixed, the suspension greased.
At the end Jon pulled out a new toy refuse truck. It was bright and shiny and in the client's corporate colours. Jon then removed the 2 figures from the cab of the first toy and placed them in the cab of the new one. Both figures were still rigidly facing in opposite directions. It seems he had fixed all he could but he couldn't get these two protagonists talking.
Now, I can't remember all the points that Jon made it was more than five years ago. The fact that I remember the presentation at all is truly remarkable. How much of your public speaking is as memorable?
Next time you are tempted to base your public speaking on a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation you might just consider if you could use a prop instead.
Keith Longmire specialises in helping small businesses achieve rapid sustainable growth through marketing online. He has documented his own experience in public speaking in his web site Public Speaking for Business.