April 15, 2008

Check your sight lines

Last week, I attended a networking event featuring a couple of speakers. The room, unfortunately, had two fat pillars in the center, and I ended up sitting in a spot where I couldn't see the speakers.

I noticed, however, that the speakers didn't make an effort to see me. Neither of them moved around enough to come into my line of sight. I know there were other people behind my pillar (it was quite fat!), and another group behind the other pillar.

There was plenty of space in the front of the room, and one speaker had made a point of saying she wasn't going to use the lectern but rather move around. The other speaker, who spoke at the lectern, was never in view.

I felt disconnected, and being a visual person, focused instead on the the reading materials that had been handed out in advance.

Something to think about if you're the speaker in a room with pillars, large equipment, an odd configuration, or other obstruction. Make sure you are able to move enough where you will see everyone in the audience at one point or another.

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8 comments. Please add yours! :

Anonymous said...


What a missed opportunity. Many speakers tend to ask the audience if they can hear them, but I suppose they don't think to ask if the audience if they can see them.

It's a great point to think about as many of us have never spoken in rooms that have obstructed views.

Anonymous said...

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Lisa Braithwaite said...

So true, James. I'm going to pay more attention to this in the future!

Unknown said...

What a strange room design! Not exactly suited for its purpose...makes me wonder why seating was available in "blind spot" areas (especially when other options were available.)

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Actually, Laura, the room was part of a restaurant that is two stories tall and has a lot of separate rooms. Those pillars are probably weight-bearing and keep the place from caving in on itself. But yeah, it was a bad room to have a speaker, and you've reminded me to contact the organizer and suggest not using that space again!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,

I've had a couple of experiences speaking to ladies' luncheon clubs in restaurants in hotels where there have been pillars. Sometimes you cannot move around an already packed room (120 ladies plus tables in one case!) but at one venue I did have room to walk around to make sure everyone saw a particular prop I was referring to.

What we can do is use humour about the setting to acknowledge to these hidden attendees that we know they are there and understand their predicament!

To some extent, they are like visually impaired members of our audience and we should make full use our vocal techniques to make sure that even if they can't see us, they can at least hear a very good piece of 'radio'.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Great analogy to the visually impaired, Nick. Thanks for sharing that.

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