- Set the stage for energy and interaction
- Ensure effective visuals and audio
- Tips to make your speakers more comfortable
There is no way to ensure that every presentation will be well received by an audience. As a meeting professional all you can do is give the presenters the tools to succeed. Fortunately, there are some simple considerations that can increase the chances of a positive experience for both presenter and attendee.
When setting up a stage for presentations there are many options. Sometimes there will be a single presenter, sometimes there will be multiple presenters at one time and other times you may need to set the stage for a panel discussion to engage in a conversation with each other or the audience.
It is important to think about how the stage is set for each of these configurations to increase intimacy, ensure ideal sightlines for the audience and encourage energy from the presenters. For example, if you have a single presenter on stage must there be a podium? I have found that by eliminating the podium you encourage more energy and audience interaction.
When a panel discussion is necessary we often see the typical table set on stage where panelists are seated in a row with microphones in their faces. This type of setup separates the panelists from the audience much like a podium. I would suggest the panelists wear lavaliere microphones and be seated in comfortable chairs or stools on stage with no table between them and the audience. Once again, this will increase intimacy and energy.
The reality is that data and pictures are often at the center of a topic so we simply must have the ability to display visual elements. To give these visuals the best chance of being effective we need to ensure they are large enough, clear enough and bright enough.
In the AV industry we have some basic guidelines to estimate how large a screen should be. As a general rule no audience member should be further than six times the screen height from the screen when text is the primary content and none should be seated closer to the screen than the actual screen height. So if you have a 12 ft. high screen the front row should be at least 12 ft. from the screen and the back row should be no further away than 72 ft. Of course, this is just a guideline but you should consider this formula when you are planning your room set and try to stay as close to these parameters as possible.
Another important factor is viewing angle. The rule here is to try to keep every attendee within a 45 degree angle of the outside edge of the screen. In extreme circumstances this angle can be as much as 60 degrees, but I would not recommend more than that. If you find that some seats will be outside of this field you may need to reconsider your setup.
The simple fact is, if the audience cannot clearly hear the presentation then nothing else matters. It is critical to invest in the best audio equipment your budget will allow because poor performance or a failure could be catastrophic for the event. It is also incredibly important to have a competent audio engineer because even the best equipment is worthless in the hands of someone who does not know how to use it effectively.
One of the most important factors in a successful presentation is the comfort level of the presenter. Even professional speakers get nervous if they don’t know exactly what they will encounter on stage. I have found great value in making sure every presenter has an opportunity to stand on the stage and get a feel for the room prior to their presentation. I always take each presenter on stage to familiarize them with everything. I show them the slide advancer, confidence monitor and even where the water will be. When possible, I let them try out the actual microphone they will be using so they can hear how they will sound.
There is nothing you can do about the actual content of the presentations and some presenters won’t be successful no matter what you do. There will always be the presenters that stand behind a podium and read their PowerPoint slides word-for-word in a monotone voice.
By following these best practices, you can rest easy knowing you’ve done your part to ensure a successful presentation for your speaker and your attendees.