A presentation preparation is more than just writing and rehearsing your speech. Often the venue will be different to the previous venues you may have presented at. It pays to get there a few days before the event or at least early on the day or night, to check out the stage lay out, the seating arrangements and the audio and projecting equipment.
When checking out the venue, get permission to get up on stage. Getting up on stage will familiarise you with the stage and help you own the stage when you get up there for real. It will also help you avoid any creaky floor planks that may be there.
“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”
While you’re familiarising yourself with the stage, check out the seating arrangements. Check out whether there will be groups of people siting off to the far sides of the room, as you will need to connect with them as well. Find out about the seating style proposed from the event manager.
- If it’s theatre style and safety provisions allow, try and avoid a centre aisle, as this kills your connection. That’s because normally, you’ll mostly connect with the people in the middle. And instead of all the audience being together, feeling as one, it separates them.
- If it’s going to be banquet style seating, try and have it changed to cabaret style, if space allows. This is so that people won’t have their backs to you and it reduces the amount of people blocking other audience members’ view.
- If the seating style is a ‘U’ shape, just remember not to walk into the “U”. While it’s tempting to do so, to allow you to connect better, it means you’ll have your back to some the audience or meeting participants. Unfortunately this is a disconnect and will probably annoy them.
- Try and find out the number of people attending. When you know that, try to arrange only a slightly large number of seats, with spares stacked up at the back. This way the audience will form one group at the front. This will provide for a cosier, more vibrant and responsive audience.
It is important to be aware of and influence the seating arrangements to achieve maximum impact for your message.
The Audio & Projection
Things go wrong. Check out this video, “A TED speaker’s worst nightmare.”
It’s common sense, but lots of people don’t use it. That is, check out what microphones are available and become familiar with them well in advance. Check out the volume setting. Because, when you have to ask, “Can you hear me down the back”, it’s never a great start and definitely a disconnect. For most speakers I would recommend the headset microphone, because it leaves your hands free to gesture. For more advanced speakers the handheld microphone has some great advantages. For more information on microphones, please check out my “Speak Up” post.
Same again, contact the venue manager or the audio-visual (AV) company to find out what’s available. Get there early and bring your own computer equipment and backups of your PowerPoint or similar. I’m sure you’re all familiar with some version of Murphy’s Law. If you don’t prepare, things can go pear-shaped.
Speak to connect, and make a difference.