Khizr Khan Pulls the U.S. Constitution out of his Suit Pocket – A Good Prop beats Words Only, or a PowerPoint Slide (a Reminder for Speakers)


{Please note: this is not a post about the political implications regarding Mr. Khan’s speech. It is about the effectiveness of a good prop}.

It was truly a dramatic moment. In the midst if his short speech at the Democratic Nationall Convention, Khizr Khan askedKhizr Khan & U S Constitution

Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words “liberty” and “equal protection of law.”

And as he spoke the words “I will gladly lend you my copy,” he pulled his own copy of the U.S. Constitution out of his suit pocket and held it up for all to see.

That one moment, with that one very effective prop, took his speech to a level that his words alone would not have accomplished. And no PowerPoint slide would have been as effective.

As a speaker, I occasionally find uses for a good prop. And every time I do, I say to myself, “I need to find more good props!”

here's the timer I use
here’s the timer I use

Recently, I read Deep Work by Cal Newport, and I have presented my synopsis of this book to numerous audiences: SMU MBA students, executive teams for some municipal governments, a national sales force for a large company at their mid-year meeting, and, of course, our original First Friday Book Synopsis gathering. Each time, I have, at a key moment, pulled out one of my current productivity tools. It is a simple cube timer. I set it for 30 or 45 minutes, for a focused task. After it goes off, I take a short break, then re-set the timer and get back at it. Telling about the timer simply would not be as effective as pulling the timer out, holding it up, and describing its usefulness. (I have either put it in a velvet black bag, or simply pull it out of my briefcase).

And, if you have ever seen Carmine Gallo’s video of Steve Jobs, he describes how Steve Jobs pulls the first Steve Jobs Macbook AirMacbook Air out of an interoffice envelope, to show “you can get a feel for how thin it is.” What a dramatic moment – Mr. Gallo calls Steve Jobs’ brilliant use of this prop his “knack for dramatic flair.” (Watch the video in my blog post Present Like Steve Jobs – Insight from Carmine Gallo. The Mac Book Air moment begins at 4:35).

So, the next time you are speaking, think about this – is there a good prop that can reinforce your point? If you find the right prop, it will be far more effective than words alone, or any PowerPoint slide.

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