Anyone who has presented more than a couple of times will know that some rooms make presenting a pleasure, and some a nightmare. You may have had the experience of tripping over wires, trying to reach audience members who can’t see or hear you, or wondering where to stand because the projector’s light takes up the entire speaking area. The layout of a room can make or break your presentation.
Which comes first, the message or the room?
Always remember that a venue is there to support your presentation, and not the other way around. You and your message come first. The room must support that; even if it means tinkering with the set-up.
A number of weeks ago, I faced a potential nightmare scenario in a keynote address. I was the guest speaker at a company’s weekend retreat, staged at a gorgeous resort on the banks of the Vaal. I arrived early to suss out the venue, and discovered that my presentation would take place in a lapa.
Nothing wrong with that. But on entering the lapa, I discovered that the tables were arranged in a circle around the edges, facing inwards, and in the centre was a large fireplace, with a chimney pipe that rose to the roof. In other words, if I tried to stand in the ‘middle,’ not only would I have to turn 360 degrees to address the delegates… but I would have to walk around a chimney while doing so; always out of view of at least half of my audience.
I was being paid for this assignment,and delighting the client is paramount. So I rearranged everything. I moved the tables into a crescent shape on one side of the room, and stood in front of the chimney.
Once my presentation was concluded, we moved the tables back and had dinner. There’s no reason you can’t do the same. Even in board-room scenarios. The quality of your message is everything,and if that quality is going to be impaired – or utterly annihilated – by the logistics of the venue, well, show some initiative and change them!
There are two things you should aim for, when setting up any venue for your presentation:
- The set-up of the room should make your life easier; and
- The set-up should facilitate enhanced receptiveness on the part of your audience.
If an audience is scattered throughout the back of an auditorium, call them in closer. If the arrangement of the tables is wrong, rearrange them. If the projector is shining into your space, move it elsewhere. Remember: the room did not descend from heaven, as an end in itself. If it doesn’t suit you, go ahead and change it!