What Would You Do with a Presentation Venue Change?

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file000200276929When beginning to prepare a presentation, I always emphasize the importance of strategy. The strategy being the backbone of your presentation, you should take the time to think about all the information you need to prepare. Part of the strategy you should consider for your presentation includes what is the physical location of where you will be giving the presentation, and asking questions about its description. What would you do with a presentation venue change?

I had a client years ago that was expecting to make a presentation at a conference coming to town. He asked all the right questions, and the contact person explained that he would be giving a breakout presentation to an expected group of 50. With my help, we planned and practiced the presentation, and he was overall ready to go on stage in a few days time.

I encouraged my client that since the presentation was going to be local, it would be a good idea to visit the location. A visit allowed him to get a feel for the attire of the attendees, the room set up, and to check in with the contact person days before to confirm the details.

(Understandably, contact people get really nervous if you don’t have contact with them on a regular basis leading up to an event.)

He took my advice and checked in with the event, the contact person led him around and showed him the room that he would be presenting in. To his surprise, the room was set up for 200 and included a riser stage, screens on the either side of the stage, two index screen/reference monitors on the floor, and the use of a collar microphone. This setup was, in fact, all of the ingredients for a keynote presentation! Since we had a few days before the scheduled presentation, we had time to discuss a different strategy for utilizing the space to its most effectiveness. Imagine if he hadn’t taken my advice to check out the room; that change sure;y would have thrown anybody off their game upon arrival, and I don’t think you would recover in time to present to the fullest ability.

When going into a presentation, ask the contact person lots of questions about the location and room set up. I had another client recently that was preparing for a keynote presentation, and I advised him to ask for pictures or at minimum a sketch of the room setup. With camera’s on everybody’s phone, pictures are really easy nowadays to ask for and send. Even with pictures and a sketch, we still didn’t know about the podium that was bolted down to the floor in the middle of the stage, making working around it difficult.

I can’t emphasize knowing your presentation space enough. You need to ask lots of questions.

web_offer_banner_2losingHere are the questions I highly suggest you ask your contact person. Not necessarily all at one time. If you have visited the room previously, some of these questions may not apply.

  • How big is the room?
  • Will you be able to send me pictures of the room or a sketch of the room and seating setup?
  • How will the seating be arranged?
  • Where will the projector be?
  • Do I need to supply my own projector?
  • Where is the screen going to be set up?
  • Is there a computer I can use OR can I bring my computer?
  • Is the location in an area of high noise? (Common in restaurants.)
  • Is there an echo in the presentation space?
  • Is a microphone suggested or is a microphone available for my use?

I had an additional client whose presentation relied on large post-it notes during an interactive part of his presentation. Without asking the right questions, he walked into the room he would be presenting in, and the walls had carpet on them. You can’t stick post-it-notes on carpeted walls very well. I wouldn’t say it was a total flop, but with the right questions, a better strategy could have been prepared than post-it notes falling at least once every minute causing a distraction. (Luckily, he had a few roles of masking tape as backup.)

You might think of additional questions to add to this list that are pertinent to your presentation like:

  • Is there an easel pad and easel available to use?
  • Is there ability to show video with audio?
  • How much time is there in between the presenter ahead of me so I can set up? Additionally, how much time do I have between me and the presenter following me to take down anything?
  • Can I put our some marketing materials or sell my book?

speak_simple_roomlayout_conference_keynoteI attended a conference recently where one of the breakout sessions was in the main ballroom set for the keynote that morning and preparing for the keynote the following day. The room was set for 300 people, but the session only had 50 people attending. The presenters (two young professionals) adapted very quickly to the situation. Instead of standing on the stage for a small audience, they only utilized one of the two large screens to the left of the stage and concentrated the participants in the small breakout session into one small area. I thought it was a very wise impromptu choice, but it could have been planned for beforehand.

Also, I recall my days working at the local zoo where I would give the same presentation up to 6 times per day, five days per week about the same 4-5 animals (alligator, snake, opossum, and frog or hawk). The only thing that changed was my audience. It’s fair to say that I knew the presentation like I know the back of my hand and could give it under any circumstance.

On a regular basis, I would show up to the presentation site a minimum of 30 minutes early to check in and set up. Knowing my presentation so well, I had the ability to think on my feet. There were so many times that I walked in knowing I was going to have a group of 30, and it turned out to be 100, and I had to adapt. And other times that I was expecting to see at least 30-50 people and only 5 arrived. With such small audiences, I would always bring the audience in close, just like the young professionals did at the conference recently and treated the presentation as an open conversation.

Additional Resources

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