Probably one of the most common delivery mistakes I see in newbies and experienced presenters alike is the urge to carry something with them on the podium. Mark this rule down — if we hold something in our hands while we talk, WE WILL play with it. And IT WILL be distracting. Plain and simple.I watched seasoned presenter recently play off his notes with a “I just jotted a few things down I wanted to be sure and share with you.” Good enough. But he then proceeded to fold, mutilate, spindle, and destroy said notes. They went into and out of the pants pocket, were shaken at the audience, waved around, and consulted on more occasions than needed to jog a memory. Better left at the edge of the stage or on a desk/podium and moved to when needed.I’ve seen trainers hold whiteboard markers like Linus’ blanket, only to end the day with a green thumb (and a red forefinger, a blue ring finger, and a black pinkie and eye).And it’s not limited to stage personalities. Watch your meeting head during the next meeting and unless the pen is on the table, it will be twirled, flipped, chewed on, bent, doodled with, and used as a baton. Put the pen on the table, and nobody gets hurt.Perhaps the only excusable handheld item is the slide or audio/visual remote. But this, too, will get fiddled with. Better to leave in an accessible spot or leave with a trusted assistant if we don’t wish to distract our audience.In addition to the chance of dropping, flinging, or destroying the object, it’s a simple distraction. The added loss is that the presenter no longer has complete freedom of his hands to make decent gestures. Far better to get an object when needed, and present a distraction-free zone the rest of the time.
Leave your hands free to avoid distractions and use proper gestures.