How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Preparing the room
Techniques > Public speaking > Preparing the room
Pens, paper, etc. | Furniture | Electronic kit | Walls | Lighting | Climate | See also
Before you start it can be a good idea to check out the room to ensure everything you need is available.
A good rule of thumb if you are doing something like training is to arrive an hour or two early to ensure you can check it all out.
Pens, paper, etc.
Enough pens that work
There is nothing worse for a presenter than to pick up the pen at the flipchart and find that it runs out in seconds flat. The response of most presenters is to put the pen neatly down in the same place and pick up another, thus repeating the problem for the next presenter.
Check out all flipchart and white-board pens beforehand. Use one full page and do a good scribble with all pens, and throw away those that are not up to the job.
A good selection of colors for pens is helpful -- red, green, blue and black being the minimum normal set. Professional presenters also bring their own -- hotels and office rooms are just too unreliable.
Enough flip-chart paper
Check that the flipcharts (if you are using them) have enough paper for your use. If necessary, have a new pad at hand. If you are going to draw on the walls, you can tape up the paper beforehand.
For delegates, too
Ensure there are pens and paper for delegates. In hotels, they often provide this. In the workplace, a few spare pens and a pile of paper is always a good idea. Also ensure you have enough photocopies of handouts, stapled or clipped together.
Delegates will need to sit and probably have a table on which to put their things. Consider carefully the seating layout you need and ensure there are enough seats.
There are two situations to avoid. One is not enough seats for everyone and the other is lots more seats than delegates. It is often best to have a few seats spare so people can choose their place, although it can be a neat trick to have just too few seats so latecomers have to stand or scramble for additional seating (and so making your talk seem all the more popular).
Speakers may need tables on which to place water and materials (often best at their side). If there is a speaker panel, they may well need to sit down at a table.
Although speakers often stand behind tables or lecterns, it is better for connecting with the audience if there are no barriers between.
Most modern presentations make heavy use of technology, and if you are doing so then ensure your kit is ready. There is little worse way of starting a presentation than fumbling with projectors, computers, etc.
It is generally a good idea to have the name and number of phone the techie folks to hand who can come and help with disasters.
Test the projector beforehand. Ensure you know what all the buttons do (well, at least those you will need). Know at least how to turn it on and focus it. With a PC projector, you should also be able to adjust trapezoidal shape and know how to plug it into your PC.
Projectors also need screens that are large enough and located so everyone can see. At worst, get a tripod stand-alone screen in, along with the projector.
Projectors used to be big and heavy, but they are now small enough to bring along with you. Many professional presenters bring their own projectors, not only because they know how to use them, but also because they can be confident that bright and accurate colors will be presented.
Ensure the projector gives a large enough picture that is bright enough and high enough for the people at the back to be able to see the projections clearly.
If you are not using your own computer, ensure the computer being used has got your presentation on it (the version that you want to use, of course). Email it to the organizer beforehand or bring it on a disk or memory stick.
Fire up the whole show before you get going, just to check that everything is in order and that you can get from zero to presenting without hassle.
Also consider any other electronica that you will need. Memory sticks? Phones? Mice?
If you are going to use a mouse to run the show, a long lead is helpful. You can get USB extensions, for example. You can also get hand-held roller-ball mice to make your presentation even slicker. Best is a radio-operated mouse so you can walk around and invisibly change slides at will.
Look at the walls in the presentation room. What do you need about them?
If you are going to pin things up on the wall, check that there is space to do so. Also check with the room owner whether you are allowed to stick things there. Even 'wall safe' adhesives and tape are banned from many places. Other rooms may have textured wall areas to which it is not that easy to stick things.
One of the heartaches of presenters is arriving with an armful of posters and nowhere to show them. The same principle applied when you want to pin flipchart pages on the wall.
One solution is to ask the room owner for pinboards. Not everyone has these, but they can help. Another is to have lots of flipchart stands. You can also be creative about where you stick things. Pictures, windows and doors often have glass areas to which you can safely attach your paper pages.
Also look at the walls for distractions. Pictures and especially noticeboards can distract your audience, particularly when they are next to where you will present. Remove all of these if at all possible.
It is always a good idea to know where the light switches are, and which switch controls which light. If in doubt, use some bits of masking tape to label the switches beforehand.
Front of the room
You will probably be standing at the front of the room, where your presentation will take place. There are often conflicting needs here. You may want people to see flipcharts, etc. and so need good lighting. You may also want the lights turned down so they can better see projected images.
Rest of the room
Again, a dilemma can appear here. You may want to darken the room so the front of the room and the projections stand out, yet you may also want light so people can see to write or talk with one another as you need. The compromise is the same -- make sure you know where the light switch is and be ready to use it quickly. You can also have someone else standing near the switches where a signal from you can result in light or darkness. Best case is a dimmer that reduces light to an appropriate level.
Windows present interesting problems. They offer natural light and help to relax people. On the other hand, they let outside sounds in, are a source of distraction and their light cannot be easily turned off with a switch. Even with blinds or curtains, light is still likely to leak in. They also take up space that you might want for posting up information.
Windows near the front are more distracting and allow through light that may spoil the stage area. These may best be covered up from start to finish. Further back, they may be covered up for the duration of your presentation. Isolating people from the world allows you to talk directly to them without reminders of external realities.
Drawing curtains at the end can be useful symbolism, reminding people that they are now back in the real world where they must implement the ideas you have given them.
Get the temperature of the room right. Too cold and people will shiver. Too hot and they will sweat. Either way, they will pay less attention to you.
Another temperature problem is that people are themselves radiators, creating heat. You can start with a cold room full of people, and in half an hour it can get uncomfortably hot. So ensure you have the means of controlling the temperature and that such methods can cope with significant temperature change.
Humidity is sometimes important. It also is increased by people, who breath out moisture. As appropriate, check that climate control equipment can handle the expected humidity.
We all need a plentiful supply of air. Unfortunately, in confined spaces, a group of people will tend to suck a lot of the oxygen from the air, making good ventilation important. If you cannot guarantee it, then plan to have lots of breaks. Big fans are also helpful for increasing circulation.
Windows also can be opened, providing both oxygen and normalization with outside temperature and humidity. When you are in a place where there is a good outside climate, opening the window can literally bring a breath of fresh air to the proceedings.
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