I've experienced two odd conference room configurations in the last month, and I thought I would share them with you.
When I'm booked for a training, I send the organizer a diagram with my preferred room setup. I request classroom-style seating, the screen to my left (in the corner, so I can be in the center), a small table to my right for props, materials, water, notes, etc., and a flip chart either between me and the screen, or behind me.
But of course, you can't always get what you want, and I've ended up in some pretty weird training rooms. Here's the one I was in a couple of weeks ago (click on the image to expand it):
Yes, the room really was as long and narrow as it appears in the image; actually it was a little longer than how I drew it. The flip chart was in the opposite corner from me, and I would write on it, then pull the pages off and stick them to the wall behind me.
Normally, I would stand on the other side of the screen, but that corner was even tighter, so broke my rule and stood to the left of the screen. By the end of the day, I actually had bruises on my right leg from banging up against the corner of the table for five hours!
Here's the room I was in last week:
The table had a hammerhead shape, so that if it was full, some attendees would be sitting with their backs to some of the others in the room. I was lucky enough to get a portable screen at the last minute; otherwise I would have been standing in a tight corner again -- which is typical in conference rooms, but the shape of this table would have made it even more awkward. Since there was no other spot for my props and materials, I took over the right side of the hammerhead.
I usually bring my own laptop and projector so I can place the visuals where I want them. But many rooms not only have no option for a portable screen, they have no space for one, either.
Another meeting room I spoke in recently was actually two side-by-side rooms with the wall between them opened up. Each room had a screen right in the center of the front wall. So the organizer used both screens to project my slides and I stood between the two screens. The room was a little too small to fit all the attendees in classroom-style seating, so we compromised and added some single chairs around the sides.
You never know what kind of crazy configuration you're going to get, so ALWAYS check your room in advance. I don't care if you flew in at midnight and your presentation is at 8 a.m. Get there as early as you can so you can figure out how to make it work best for you and for the audience.
Weird-shaped rooms, posts blocking people's view, loud A/C units, too-dim lighting, uncomfortable room temperature... these are just a few of the hurdles you'll face when speaking. But by viewing your room (preferably days) before your presentation, you will be ready to take on whatever challenges come your way and make them work.
Most important, you won't be distracted by tight quarters or other discomforts and you can give your full attention to connecting with your audience.
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