March 6, 2007

Always check your venue in advance

I was reminded of this last week, when I videotaped the presentation of a client who is fairly new to public speaking. She mentioned to me that some of her movements were awkward and restricted because she felt like a caged animal in the room we were using and that the room where she normally speaks, at her Toastmasters group, has more space and a long aisle that she uses to move through the audience.

The room we were using was a conference room that can hold about 20 people comfortably. In fact, it's the type of room in which I and other speakers have given many presentations.

Of course, because it wasn't a "real life" presenting situation, it wasn't necessary for her to check out the space in advance of our meeting, but because of the unfamiliarity, her discomfort became visible through her movements and body language.

In "real life," however, a speaker who has not checked out the venue could be in for a big surprise - to the detriment of the presentation. Perhaps the room has an awkward setup that puts your audience too close or too far away; or there's no electrical outlet close enough for your LCD projector; or there's a loud copy machine in the next room; or there's a lectern with a fixed microphone and you're stuck in one spot for the whole talk.

There are many reasons a venue can be less than optimal; however, the sooner you get a look at the room and a feel for the layout and resources, the sooner you can work on adapting to the circumstances.

If you can't visit the room in person, speak to the host/organizer of your presentation and get as many details as possible about the number of attendees, room size, layout, electrical outlets, noise, lighting, temperature/climate, and other factors regarding the venue.

There will inevitably be surprises along the way - we can't control everything. But a well-prepared speaker leaves nothing (or next to nothing) to chance.

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