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Seating Arrangements


Techniques Public speaking > At The Venue > Seating Arrangements

Who sits where | What your audience sees | What your audience hears | See also


When you are setting up for a presentation or training session, beyond considerations of seating layout you may want to take account of further considerations of who sits where and what people can see and hear.

Who sits where

Sometimes it is important to ensure people sit in certain places. Sometimes you want team members to sit together. Sometimes you may want to break up existing groups to increase cross-fertilisation. Plan beforehand how you will achieve this.

The most direct method is to put names on individual places beforehand, although this is relatively time-consuming. At the other end of the spectrum, either ask people as they come in or have a mass rearrangement session before things get going.

Putting a 'reserved' note on chairs is an easy way to ensure they are kept ready for people such as senior managers, visiting dignitaries and team members who may need to jump up at particular times.

What your audience sees

Check that you audience can all see what is presented, for example that screens are high enough, and that they can read any text that is presented to them. Any lighter shades are more difficult to read from further away. You may be writing nice things in red and green, but the folks at the back may be straining to see what you have written.

A good trick is, before the session begins, to write in the lightest colour you will use, in the normal writing you will use and go and sit at the back and try to read it. Assume that there will be people with limited eyesight too, so 'just good enough' is probably not enough. Do the same with slides when you are preparing them.

Things that look great on the computer screen may be unreadable when projected on the wall. Also remember that the projected image size and quality can vary greatly, depending on the projector. As appropriate, move the projector back to get a larger image or change slides (this is another good reason to arrive early).

What your audience hears

Make sure that everyone can hear you. Talk in your normal voice at the front and get someone at the back to tell you if they can year you ok. As necessary, raise your voice, speak clearer or get a Public Address system fitted.

Clap and listen to the echo. Hard surfaces can make hearing at the back jumbled. Curtains, carpets and soft things (including people) absorb sound, which can be helpful (although too much absorption can make the room sound dead).

In larger halls, you may also need a Public Address (PA) system with clip-on microphones and speakers at appropriate places. As necessary, set this up and also test it.

See also

Seating Layout

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