Monday, September 17, 2007

it's a wonderful room

"It's a wonderful room," said the program chair who organized my speech. (She liked it because it held more than twice the number of people at the meeting, plenty of room for a big crowd.) "Wonderful room," murmured the meeting planner, who'd chosen it. "Just look at that painted ceiling." (I was hoping not to have to fight with it for people's attention.) "So historic...a wonderful room," said the president of the organization. (We found that the historic values didn't lend themselves to technology, however.) The wonder was that I'd be heard at all in this cavernous auditorium, with a stage and balcony, and so much seating that participants scattered all over the available space.

What saved that speech: I arrived more than an hour ahead, paced the space, asked about the technology and watched it fail in a test, and remade my presentation so that I walked into the large audience (via the central aisle) to engage participants. I used technology sparingly--mostly the microphone--and didn't stay stuck to the lectern, placed so far away from the audience that I'd look like an ant. And I tossed my slides and went for an interactive discussion on the topic, possible only because I was prepared.

Before you give a speech, get in touch with the meeting planner and ask for a layout of the room (most hotels and conference facilities provide this), as well as the number of seats that will be set for your presentation. Ask about technology: microphones, extension cords, laptops, projectors. Will you be able to walk into the audience? Use a portable mic? Many event planners assume you'll stay close to the lectern, for example, and you want to be sure everyone understands your needs. Even then, be prepared to restate your needs to the A/V person on the ground...or adapt in less-than-wonderful conditions.

No comments: