When it comes to speaking, it’s so important to remember to “OWN YOUR STAGE!” So what do I mean by that? Well that phrase could have many meanings for speakers—but for this blog post I’m specifically referring to how you set up the room for your speech or presentation in the most effective manner possible.
Is there one best way to set up a room that works every time? Quick answer—nope. There really isn’t a perfect setup that works every time for every presentation. However, I do have three simple rules that can guide you:
- Rule #1—Everyone needs to be able to see you.
- Rule #2—Everyone needs to be able to hear you.
- Rule #3—The room has to be set up conducive for any exercises or activities that you’re planning on doing.
To check the first two rules, I like to sit in all four corners of the room beforehand. Will the audience member in that seat be able to see me and any visual aids I might be using? (Flip chart—projection screen if I’m using PowerPoint—etc.) While I’m doing this visual check, if I can have someone speaking I can also determine if I can be heard in all four corners as well. Lastly, I review any exercises or activities I have planned for the audience. If people will be coming to the front of the room—is there a clear path to do so? If we will be breaking up into smaller groups, is there a way to set up the room to make that easier? Bottom line—if everyone can see you, hear you, and easily participate in any exercises or activities that are planned, then the room is set up just fine.
A related suggestion—when you get the room configured just the way you want it—be aware of the tendency for audience members to sit as far away from the speaker as possible. Why is this a problem? Well–it’s hard to connect with your audience if they are so far away you can barely see them. It’s also difficult to have good energy in a presentation if everybody’s all scattered about. So get them close together and upfront. In fact, as part of the room setup, I like to leave the audience no option but to sit where I want them to, because those are the only chairs/seats/tables that are available.
Of course, certain locations or situations allow you little or no flexibility to set up the room the way that I’m advising here. That’s ok. As speakers we do the best we can with what we have to work with. That’s all we can do. Having said that—more times than not we CAN get the room configured in a way that helps us give a more effective presentation. So take advantage whenever possible—it’s your speech, it’s your presentation. You’re in charge. “OWN YOUR STAGE!”