July 15, 2010

Another challenging venue



I recently wrote about some oddly configured conference rooms I've presented in, and here's the latest interesting venue, from last night:

This is the new event pavilion at the Ventura County Museum. It's a beautiful space, with a courtyard out front featuring stone walls and a series of glass mosaics showing scenes from local history. The pavilion has a state-of-the-art new projection and sound system and will be a great venue for large engagements.

It might not be easy to see from this picture (I should have put a person in the picture for scale), but the pavilion is huge. The ceiling is high. And at the event last night, there were about 20 people present, seated at four tables placed in the front third of the room.

In a room like this, it's hard to create a presence (even for a larger-than-life character like myself), and hard to feel connected with your audience.

The sound echoes -- when people talk, their voices dissipate in the huge space (luckily, I don't have problems with being heard myself). I had to ask people to repeat their questions and comments several times. I decided against using a microphone because of the size of the audience; I felt it would create even more psychological distance, although the sound might have been better.

I was dwarfed by the impressively giant screen. It wasn't physically chilly in the room, but there was a sense of coldness and distance, even though I was standing right in front of the tables.

As you know, I was sick yesterday, and had to dredge up some extra energy to get through the presentation. So on top of the extra energy, I needed to put out even more energy so I wouldn't get lost in the space.

It was a challenge, and I didn't feel that it was my best presentation ever, but I had a good time and the audience and I made the best of the space. I enjoyed working with the very professional staff of the Ventura County Museum in getting set up. And thank you to ISES, for inviting me to speak at their meeting!

2 comments. Please add yours! :

TechEase said...

Your post reminds me of the stand up comedy documentary I just watched "I Am Comic" (@iamcomicmovie on Twitter) in which one of the comics talks about building the perfect venue for doing stand up. It had to do with several things that would occur to me, like keeping the lighting low and eliminating things that draw focus from the comic.
But one thing he mentioned that I didn't realize was keeping the ceilings low. You don't want the laughter to just float up into the air, you want us all to be intimately involved together.
So even though it looks like a beautiful space, I can see why it might not make the best speaking venue. Sounds like you did a great job of bringing extra energy despite not feeling well, which must have been tough. Bravo!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Seinfeld talks about something similar, keeping the audience seating close together, another aspect of intimacy and involvement. You want people to feel close and bonded, not separate and distant.

I've got that movie saved on my DVR, just haven't gotten around to watching it yet. Will be taking copious notes!

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