The Banana & a Prophylactic: The Fine Art of Amplifying Aids in Public Speaking

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bananas by topiccio on FlickrWhen I was in college I was a member of the Peer Education Program (PEP.) We were just starting to realize the devastation that HIV and AIDS were likely to cause on campus if we didn't get the word out about how the disease is spread (and how it is not spread.) So, my health-conscious friends and I were banding together to take the message into as many college classrooms as possible.

As you may have guessed, this is where the banana comes in. The prophylactic, too.

The PEP program was run by the health services department of our university. This means we definitely had access to all of the anatomically correct three-dimensional genitalia models we might want. We definitely used them for our studies and PEP program education. What we did not use them for was demonstrations for how to put on a condom (prophylactic, in fancy terms.)


Because an anatomically correct three-dimensional penis model would have been too distracting.

Amplifying aids should always, always, always amplify your content – make the information easier to understand and use. Many of the students in our college classrooms, while they were likely to be sexually active, had not had much up-close-and-personal-with-the-lights-on experience looking at male genitalia – certainly not in a roomful of their peers. It was critical that we kept their attention on the task at hand (ahem), instead of flinging into the mind flurry that might have occurred in processing an actual male penis.

Plus, it added a a bit of light-heartedness to a topic that was quite heavy and intense. It kept their attention.

The most important thing about using the banana, though, was that it worked.

It actually served well as a demonstration tool. We even had students in the classes practice on a few spare bananas we brought. I am certain that we'd have had less participation in that exercise if we had chosen the 3D anatomy models we had back at the PEP office.

So, your takeaway is this:

Think seriously about whether your amplifying aid will actually enhance your presentation.

Does it make it even better than it would be without it? If it doesn't, don't bother. It will make you less effective in your goals for speaking – and it will get in the way of creating a powerful relationship with your audience by causing distraction from the important and useful information you have to share. You definitely don't want that.

Tell me – do you have any stories about creative amplifying aids you have used? Any horror stories we can learn from?

Thank you, Topicchio, for the banana pile image. It serves well as a reminder about the potential effectiveness of using bananas in condom use demonstrations – without being too distracting.