Objects, Props, and Personal Appearance as Visual Aids

Learning Objectives

  • Identify how personal appearance can be a visual aid to a presentation.
  • Identify how objects and props can be used to enhance a presentation.

Clothing, Uniforms, and Personal Appearance

A man speaking to several people wearing a green uniform jacket

To deliver his persuasive speech about the importance of protected public land, Jim might wear his State Park Ranger uniform.

Some people choose to dress up as part of their presentation, and this choice can help set the tone of the speech or reinforce a specific point. A speaker may choose to wear a handmade sweater in a talk about knitting in order to inspire others to begin the hobby. Another speaker may opt for a firefighter’s uniform in a speech about joining the local volunteer fire department in an effort to appeal to the respect most people have for people in uniform.

If you aren’t dressing in relation to your topic, you should dress appropriately for your audience and venue. A presentation to a professional audience or at a professional conference would lend itself to appropriate business attire. If you are giving a presentation to your local Girl Scout troop, more casual clothing may be the best choice. Any time you are doing a demonstration, make sure you are dressed appropriately to give the demonstration. It is difficult for a speaker to show how to correctly put on a rock climbing harness if she is wearing a skirt the day of the presentation.

Beyond dressing appropriately for your audience and topic, the audience will make judgments about you even before your presentation begins. Your dress, mannerisms, the way you greet the audience when they are arriving, how you are introduced, and the first words out of your mouth all impact your credibility and ability to connect with your audience. Make sure you are calm and welcoming to your audience when they arrive and greet them in a professional manner. Your credibility and professionalism suffer when the audience arrives and you are busy scrambling around attempting to finish your preparations.[1]

Objects and Props

Man speaking into a microphone and holding up a book

If you want to call attention to a quote or passage from a specific book, the physical book can be a good prop.

Objects and props, such as a bicycle helmet for a speech on bike safety or an actual sample of the product you are trying to sell, can greatly enhance your presentation. Seeing the actual item will often make it easier for your audience to understand your meaning and will help you connect with your audience on an emotional level. Props can be used as part of demonstrations (discussed below) or as a stand-alone item that you refer to in your speech. There are several important considerations for using props in your presentation. If you have a large audience, showing the prop at the front of the venue may mean that audience members can’t see the item. The alternative to displaying the prop at the front is to pass the item around, though Young and Travis advise caution in passing objects around during your speech, as most people will be seeing the object after you have moved on with your talk.[2] Having your prop out of sync with your presentation, either as it is passed around disrupting your audience’s attention or by having your prop visible when you aren’t talking about it, is distracting to your audience and message. To make the most effective use of props in your presentation, carefully consider how the object will be visible to your entire audience when you are speaking about it, and make sure it is out of sight when you are not.


  1. Duarte, Nancy. Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences. United Kingdom, Wiley, 2010.
  2. Young, Kathryn Sue, and Travis, Howard Paul. Oral Communication: Skills, Choices, and Consequences. United States, Waveland Press, 2008.