You walk into the meeting room at least a half hour before your presentation, maybe more if you are using technology. You take a good look around the room. Yep. There are tables, chairs, a projector, and a screen. Sigh. Don’t all these meeting rooms look just about the same? Boring. Don’t be afraid to change it up to send the signal that this talk is not going to be your typical, ho-hum presentation. Part of caring is paying attention to room conditions.
Regardless of who has control over the room temperature, sound quality, or other environmental issues, you are ultimately responsible for the audience’s experience. No one else. Find out the room logistics prior to your presentation and set the room so the participants will be able to easily connect with you and with each other.
Room Size. If you have any say in the matter, try to get a room large enough to hold the expected number of attendees—and nothing bigger. If you have to choose between a room that is slightly too small and one that is slightly too large, choose the smaller room with standing room only.
Seating Arrangements. To allow participants to comfortably accomplish the activities you have in mind, set the chairs so they can be close to you and to each other.
Tables. The table configuration you use can support interaction as well: For example, with small audiences (fewer than twenty-five people), try a U-shaped arrangement where the audience fans out around the speaker on three sides. This enables the presenter to walk into the audience easily and encourages participation not only with the speaker but also with each other.
Screen to Their Left. Since we read from left to right, make it easier for the audience to “read” what you are saying by placing the screen to the left of the stage (downstage right in theater terms). Place the screen at the same depth as you will be standing and close enough to your center position that the audience’s eyes won’t have to travel a great distance from you to the screen. Furthermore, should you have to point to something on the screen, you can use your right hand without turning your back to the participants.
Lectern. For the same reasons as outlined for your screen placement, set the lectern, if you must have one, to their left (downstage right) so that you can have the center stage free to move about.
Clutter. Get rid of the clutter that tends to build up in a meeting room, especially at the front where you will be doing most of your speaking. What kind of clutter? Empty water glasses, piles of materials left over from a previous session, furniture that serves no purpose.
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