“Remember how a lack of resources was never a problem in childhood. Shift a few pieces of furniture around the living room and you have a fort”**
Good speakers and trainers are great at shifting furniture! I used to have biceps of steel from hauling tables into position and dragging stacks of chairs from room to room. It can be a real boost to your comfort level if you feel you are ‘inhabiting’ the space and beginning to feel secure within it.
So, if your room is poorly laid out, do your best to make the room fit for purpose. Change things around – build your own fort!
Here are some guidelines:
- Agree in advance, in writing, how you would like the room laid out and the equipment you would like access to. It isn’t always possible to have it exactly as you wish but at least you can make the attempt
- Bearing the above in mind, arrive at least 45 minutes early, preferably an hour before your start time, so you can change the layout to more closely resemble a professional environment rather than ‘Scout-hut-circa-1970s’ vibe
- If your audience/delegate group comprises 15 people or fewer, then a U-shaped layout or round tables (cabaret layout) prove much better for interaction. For larger audiences, cabaret-style will still work, however, you can accommodate more people within less floor space if arranged theatre-style (rows of seats facing forward)
- Check all your Audio-Visual aids are in place and operating correctly. Have a remote clicker so you are free to walk away from your laptop. Always have your slides on email and/or memory stick too, as newer screening facilities can often be operated from a built in appliance or even from a different room. Also, ensure that everyone can read the screen/flip-chart/your body language no matter where they sit
- Remove or cover up distracting objects or those that have no relevance to your topic. It is amazing how fixated audiences can become on a dog-eared Health and Safety poster or an irritatingly blinking console
- Maslow’s Hierarchy being alive and well (where folk can’t concentrate on what you are saying if they feel uncomfortable, unsafe, hungry or thirsty), ensure that basic refreshments are provided even if you are only speaking for ten minutes and you can provide only water. For longer training sessions, hot and cold drinks and light refreshments are obligatory, take your own if necessary
- 21 degrees centigrade is an ideal room temperature – cooked or frozen delegates don’t concentrate and deliver poor feedback!
Finally, there will always be an early delegate, usually delightful but sadly distracting, as they often want to talk. If possible, get them to assist you so that what you lose on the chat, (set-up wise) you gain from an extra pair of hands.