Have you ever had to present in a room that looked like it was designed by somebody who has never given a presentation? When you have to deal with a less-than-optimal presenter setup, there are ways to make the best of this bad situation.
Portrait of a really bad layout
The above photograph was taken in the conference room where my Toastmasters chapter meets. There are several things wrong with this setup:
- The wires run across the floor, just waiting to trip up some unsuspecting speaker.
- The setup encourages the speaker to sit at the laptop with her back to the audience.
- The computer stand is just a flat table with no places to stash items out of sight.
- There isn’t a remote.
Who greenlit this room layout? Every time I have to present in this room I want to give that person a dope slap. But I can’t and even if I could it would be wrong. Instead, I keep the following tips in mind to ensure a smooth presentation.
Learn the room layout ahead of time
If you’re going to present in an unfamiliar location, get as much information as you can about the room layout. Is there a podium? Can you hook up your own laptop (always preferable). If the layout is bad, how much leeway do you have to rearrange it?
I advise you to arrive at least an hour before your scheduled speaking time. This gives you time to assess the room, set up the laptop and arrange things to make it easy for you to present.
Rearrange the furniture
DO NOT PRESENT WHILE SEATED WITH YOUR BACK TO THE AUDIENCE. If stuff isn’t bolted down, rearrange the room to make it easier to present (since you got there an hour early this isn’t a problem, right?). Don’t forget to put everything back just the way you found it!
Bring your own remote
Remotes are relatively cheap and very easy to set up. (Step 1: Insert USB receiver. Step 2: Turn on remote. Step 3: Showtime!) Always remember to bring spare batteries so you aren’t forced to tap on your keyboard to advance your slides.
Memorize your presentation
I hope you’re not using your slides as a teleprompter! Even with an optimal room setup, with a screen against the far wall to show you what your audience is seeing behind you (I’ve been in a conference room like this; it was GREAT!), you should not be reading from your slides. But even the best prepared presenter can benefit from glancing at the screen once in a while to keep her place.
IT is your friend
Finally, it’s always a good idea to have the contact information of your friendly neighborhood IT guy or gal where you’re presenting. Introduce yourself ahead of time, let him know when you’re scheduled to speak and ask if there’s anything you need to know about the room before your presentation: WiFi password, firewall information, etc. By establishing a relationship early on, you’re more likely to get a quick response if things go south!
Roll with the punches
The best thing is to keep a positive attitude. Yeah, so there are wires on the floor, you have to rearrange the furniture to see your laptop and you don’t have a remote. Grace under pressure is an admirable trait. If you exude confidence even in the face of such odds, your audience will take notice!