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Lesson 10 – Equipment

Lesson 10 – Equipment

  • Should you have notes on stage with you?
  • Should you use PowerPoint?
  • Should you use props?

And they are just the obvious things people ask me about public speaking, what about the ones you haven’t even thought of?

  • What about what you wear.
  • Your jewellery.
  • Your colour of lipstick or even your shoes?

There are 3 elements to equipment when it comes to public speaking.;

  1. You and the image you wish to give your audience.
  2. The equipment that will enable your audience to get maximum benefit.
  3. The aids you need to ensure you can deliver the best performance possible.

Let’s explore each one.

  1. You and the image you wish to give your audience

People often ask me about what equipment they need and ask if they should use props and PowerPoint and yet they don’t really consider what their outfit is saying. For instance, here’s a few things I’ve learnt;

  • Don’t wear jangly jewellery in corporate environments or large auditoriums – it can be very off putting, it can distract people’s attention and can actually be considered rude or annoying. Same goes for change in trousers pocket.
  • Consider what your outfit says about you. A perfect example of this is a business woman I’ve known for a few years who always wears a dress and jacket or skirt and jacket. Always very smart and what I would consider smart office attire, then one day this woman started attending events wearing bright free flowing trousers, quirky glasses and awesome flat footwear I’d never seen them wear. The interesting thing was that they seemed more confident and more relaxed as well. Their engagement with audiences was so natural that they seemed to connect with everyone. When I asked them about it, they said that they’d realised that what people wanted on stage was for them to be themselves, and this was who she really was. Her outfits were still smart, but they were original and fitted her style, her organisations brand and her message far better.

ACTION; If you think back to lesson 1 when we asked what was your purpose for speaking, consider how your outfit can help reinforce your message?

  • I’m often asked if I should wear branded items of clothing. My answer is if this makes you feel comfortable and is what you would wear when you meet your clients, then go for it. As I write this the research into what constitutes work wear is radically changing however a word of caution I have heard people dismiss someone before they’ve said a word because they had jeans on and I’ve also heard someone say that someone in a suit can’t be taken seriously because they “just don’t’ get this industry” so this may vary for your profession and target clientele. Personally even if I’m asked to dress down for an away day I will still wear a smart outfit, just maybe swap for flats instead of my (in my head regulatory) heels.
  • On this subject I will even adjust the colour of my makeup depending on the audience. I have heard it said by an older generation that red nails and lips are not appropriate for work. Whether this an outdated idea or not, the point is that someone in your audience who you are aiming to impress or buy your products could think in this way. Consider who is in your audience and what they would want from their speaker. Some audiences are far more relaxed than others, with many citing a love for Mark Zuckerberg’s approach of “wear the same thing every day so you’ve got brain space for the important stuff.” (It could also be why I wear a dress and jacket every day – less things to worry about!

2. The equipment that will enables your audience to get maximum benefit

You’ve probably heard that PowerPoint is not there for you but for your audience but what else enables your audience to get maximum benefit from what you are saying and wishing them to learn?

In a later lesson we will look at what audiences hate and love however for now we need to consider how different us humans can be and how it impacts on our ability to learn and listen.

ACTION; In its simplest format consider this with every speaking engagement;

How do my audience like to learn?

Your audience will be made up of people that like to learn in 4 ways – visual, auditory, reading/writing or kinaesthetic. When you consider this, you can see the benefit that PowerPoint can have. However, for example someone like myself struggles to listen to what is being said when there are a lot of words on the screen. While a visual learner may struggle with a powerpoint that only has pictures or doesn’t exist at all.

How do my audiences like to think?

Secondly humans tend to fit into one of two categories – convergent thinkers or divergent thinkers.

Convergent – Just get to the point. What’s the solution. What are we going to do!

Divergent – What ideas do you have? What could we do? What actions could we take?

Put these styles into play and add that some people struggle to hear if the acoustics are bad or it’s a large room and then you can see that sometimes PowerPoint is necessary. (It is also something that some hosts like to have in action to showcase the event they’ve hosted to enable them to promote future events. A blank screen doesn’t help, while a power phrase and a great image does and could give you some evergreen marketing too!)

Taking the above into account here are some do’s and don’ts of PowerPoint;

  • Keep the words to a minimum – according to TEDx the top presentations in the world rarely have 40 words between the first 10 slides!
  • Short sentences and definitely a slide full of words.
  • Use images wisely. A good image can help keep the subject in your audience’s head. If it is too vague or ambiguous it just distracts them as they try to work out “what’s the connection?”
  • Check the image is big enough. A pixelated image can make you look unprofessional.
  • Rarely have I ever seen a video that reinforces the speakers words. And often the use of video is distracting and makes the speaker look unprofessional. Rarely does the tech work first time, often Wi-Fi drops and a speaker is left telling you what was so great about the video which is what they could have done in the first place! A good image from the video and saying something like “There is a great video that I’ve added to our website and social media for you that showcases the power of this/how funny this is/how big an impact this can have” That way you are encouraging your audience to engage with you after the event too!
  • Don’t have too many slides. A screen changing can be very distracting.
  • Do use the slides as dramatic pauses. If you are well rehearsed, pausing and giving them a big question that leaves them hanging and thinking “what’s coming next!!!” before you change the slide can add a level of suspense and intrigue. It makes your audience want to listen and hear what you’ve got to say. It can work in many situations and keeps your audience engaged and the momentum going.
  • Choose your font carefully. Can it be seen easily from the back of the room.
  • Be wary of colour over colour for fonts. It can be tricky to read. If in doubt keep it to standard black and white.
  • Don’t have swirling visuals that are hard to track. People can bore after only 14 minutes so if you have sentences zooming in and out of the page, they can feel sick as well as bored!
  • Ask yourself what is the purpose of every slide? Every slide!
  • Use a recap slide towards the end and finish with a slide that brings the call to action alive. And don’t make it “Special conference price £995!” No one believes that, on the other hand, “For a free copy of the slides just head to my Facebook page and for further support just Messenger me anytime” Whatever is your preferred CTA and follow up practice?
  • Use PowerPoint wisely. And I always print off a small image of the slide with a few sentences for each slide that reminds you of the content you wish to cover.
  • If you have more technical content to share consider asking the host if you can supply the audience with handouts, or copies of the slides afterwards.
  • Aim to keep jargon to a minimum and if you do need to use it or acronyms a simple slide with that word can help the audience remember the content.

There are some examples of my PowerPoint on my LinkedIn and Facebook business Profile. Both of which were requested by the host and audiences. (Probably says something right?)

So after PowerPoint what other props are there?

Whiteboard’s are good to make the session interactive. You will need to listen acutely for what people are shouting out behind, and you may consider asking someone to get involved with helping you write on the board. Either way a whiteboard can help your audience feel like they are going to be listened to. A word of caution, don’t just ask a question that expects the audience to do all the work and find all of the answers. It’s a bit like going to see your favourite singer only for them to hold the mike listening to the audience sing it instead of them, you find yourself thinking “I didn’t pay to hear 50,000 strangers sing this, I paid to hear you sing it!”

White boards’ also rely on you being able to spell, so if you worry about spelling things wrong, writing at a slant or misquoting someone, practice or reconsider.

Pen and paper for your audience can help them take notes. Not everyone turns up prepared. You may wish to get them sharing what they’ve written down and discussed in their pairs.

Post it notes can be useful for getting everyone involved. If you’ve copied a ice breaker or game off of the internet be cautious in corporate environments, where they will have been force fed games like this before and it could cause them to prejudge what you are going to do, based on past experiences.

Props. I’ve seen props used brilliantly and to distraction. A great prop I’ve seen in action was when a presenter actually started removing their make up with their own products and showed how quick and easy it is to look gorgeous naturally – I was sold! Another great example is the business owner that always uses a skull and it is becoming It’s own personality as the speaker alters its image depending on what they wish to speak about or highlight. Their audience is laughing and excited to hear what they have to say before they’ve even started! On the other hand I’ve seen people stand up and sing a song with a guitar and the audience has not caught every word they’ve said so not actually understood the relevance of the guitar to their business or what they wanted people to do or know.

Props should enliven the audience. Reinforce your message. Props enable you to make visual, subjects that are hard to grasp or feel to far removed from your audience. In this way they are powerful.

ACTION; Consider what props could you use?

Check out some of the powerful examples that famous speakers have used over the years to highlight world poverty, malaria or the power of our brain’s little grey matter. All props that powerfully share the story before the words or body do anything!

On the other side of props I’ve seen props used in a way that scared half the audience to death. While it was a clever trick that massively reinforced the speakers message, because of it’s ambiguity for many of the audience it just looked like someone was getting shot with an arrow at point blank range! Be sure that you know your audience will interpret the prop in the same way as you do.

Ideally keep your props hidden so that again you can bring them out with aplomb and add gravitas to their use.

Phones – everyone has one and we are in theory supposed to put them away before the speaker starts speaking to show respect. What if you challenged this and said “You are welcome to film my content and share with your friends on line”? If this is something you want to do and you are using PowerPoint consider having your social media at the bottom of each page, and not just on the first page and last. If you only add your social media tags to the first and last page people will forget to get involved because they can’t remember your name therefore you are restricting them from engaging with you. Clarify the boundaries that you wish your audience to bide by. It could be your keynote is worth £25,000 and in which case you may not be keen to see it sprawled across the internet.

3.The aids you need to ensure you can deliver the best performance possible.

In our determination to do our best for our audiences we can put ourselves to the bottom of the list. Simple things can help you perform brilliantly. As you see in the lesson that looks at the fear of public speaking it is sometimes a visual reminder that enables us to break the habit of fearing public speaking, so there is nothing wrong with ensuring you have your “lucky bracelet” with you on stage. (think like the footballer and their lucky socks!”

It is also important that if you thought of your audience when you considered your outfit you considered how comfortable you feel in it. (I’ve had occasions where I’ve been on a wooden old stage and risked getting my heels stuck in a wooden rutt! And so had to adjust how much I’ve moved around the stage.)

Make sure you can move freely in your outfit, feel comfortable and are going to be up to standing around answering questions afterwards too. You don’t want to risking looking bored on in pain because you’ve chosen the wrong shoes.

Consider how tight your outfit is and whether it impacts on your breathing too. (Remember your breathing can massively impact on your performance.)

Notes – there is no rule against notes however if it is just a 60 seconds elevator pitch ask yourself what does it say about you that you can’t think of something to say for less than 60 seconds without the need for an aid? Does it suggest you know your subject or lack knowledge? In my experience the shorter the session only have a piece of paper in your hand if you are;

  1. Reading a testimonial and quoting someone else.
  2. You are sharing how to complete a work sheet and are pointing out where you are on the worksheet.

For someone that suffers from brain fog thanks to my medications and Lupus sometimes if I have had a long journey and I’m going to be engaging with an audience for a whole day I will have notes. Not a copy of everything I could cover on the day, however key points that I feel are essential to get across powerfully to my audience.

WORTH NOTING; I used to stress that I hadn’t read things in order, or that I’d not covered everything I’d wanted to. The point is that your audience gets maximum benefit, and if you have delivered on all of the lessons in this course, that will happen, even if you go slightly off script. If anything off script means you were listening to your audience and working on a deeper level to the needs of that individual audience. That is the powerful stuff!

Some equipment is subtle other’s not so much. Let me give you the two extremes with clients who feared public speaking;

The microphone – While the microphone is there to enable everyone to hear you, I’ve seen a client who was petrified of public speaking pretend the microphone was a normal phone. Why? Because as we discovered in their coaching session they hated the way people were looking at them, and worried about what they thought of them (More of this in Fight the fear – the book and in the lesson on the fear of public speaking) seeing the microphone as part of their equipment and not the audiences meant they could pretend it was a phone. This client had to host a lot of online conference calls, usually to 300+ people and that was fine because they felt “hidden”. The phone (along with the coaching session on what they wanted to feel, act like and notice) enabled them to change the purpose of the phone to make it useful to them.

WORTH NOTING; Not all microphones are equal. I’ve been on stage with a microphone so light I’ve not noticed it and on other occasions I’ve needed to prop my arm up it’s so heavy. If possible always check out the equipment that is on offer and don’t feel pressurised into using if you feel you can deliver without over complicating things. Although be aware that the AV (Audio and Visual) team will know the set up, room and accoustics probably better than you, so it’s worth taking into account their views.


What equipment would you like to encorpirate into your speaking engagements?

What equipment do use that you feel distracts from the power of what you have to say?

Have you factored into your speaking engagement the need to appreciate the different ways people like to learn and think?

How will you ensure you remember to factor in equipment into your future speaking engagements to ensure you are memorable to your audiences in a powerful way.

ACTION; Stand in front of a mirror with your prop, white board or notes. Notice how you stand. Does it impact on your performance? Does it make you more relaxed? Are you stressing about being on the right page of your notes or of the slide show? How will you avoid that?

  • August 21, 2018