Setting up a killer presentation

| October 16, 2018

So, you’ve prepared and rehearsed for weeks for your presentation and the content is honed and ready to go. But, there is one aspect of effective presentations and pitches that often ges overlooked by young entrepreneurs and mid—sized companies – the room you are going to hold it in.

There are many factors to bear in mind to get the nuts and bolts of your presentation right and any one of them can all make or break the whole event. Therefore, if you don’t own and control the room itself, it is highly advisable to visit the presentation area before the big day. The goal is to confirm that when the time comes, you will have everything working in your favour, not against you. Here is how to make it happen and set the stage for a killer presentation.

Optimal room layout

First things first, you have to realize the importance of room size and layout. The room needs to be large enough for your audience to fit in without overcrowding it. At the same time, you also do not want to have a space that is too large because it will look sad and half-empty.  If you have a large room for a small number of pieces then fill out the space with some tables of refreshment or displays supporting your work.

As well as properly estimating the number of attendees – and keeping a few spare chairs on hand just in case – then pay close attention to the location of the doors. Ideally, attendees should enter through the back of the room instead of the front. That way, latecomers will not disturb presentations that are already underway. The speaker should also have an easy access to the podium, minimising the chance of embarrassing pratfalls.

Seating space and arrangements

The seating makes all the difference.  If you’re using removable chairs, then get the best quality you can find, nobody wants to feel that they’re back at a school assembly.  You need to arrange those chairs in a way ensures the screen and speakers – get a proper podium if you can – are visible to viewers and allows everyone to be seated comfortably. Try to avoid long and narrow rooms because those at the back will struggle to see and hear and lose interest.

Make sure there are no obstructions between the seats and the podium or the exit areas and pay attention to any room features that might block lines of sight.   There are various arrangement styles that could work, including classroom, U-shape, conference and banquet, so try them all before making a decision. Weigh their pros and cons in practise before taking the plunge, rather than accepting whatever you start with. Achieve the maximum impact for your message by ensuring that everyone can get to a seat, and see you from it.

Sound equipment

One tech staple that you must get right is proper amplification for your business presentation.  The sound system is absolutely crucial to success in any presentation larger than a normal board room. If you’re speaking to twenty people or more in a larger room then try to hire a surround sound or a public address (PA) setup and an operator who knows what they’re doing. The latter option is great because it involves multiple microphones, a mixing console and amplifiers, allowing a seamless mix of pre-prepared material and live presentations.

If you can’t use a proper P.A. then at least considering using a decent amplifier to fill a larger room.  Even a small guitar amplifier can deliver all the sound you need in much better quality than many in house speakers.  However lavish or modest your resources are more modest, it is important to position the components well.

While at it, check out the type of microphone you will be using and have some practice with it beforehand. There should also be a couple of roving mikes, if possible, in the hands of assistants if you’re taking questions from the floor.  It is preferable to have technical support staff available, should any unforeseen issues arise. They can also shed light on the acoustics of the room and help position the speakers to maximum effect.

Test that everything works well before the event – don’t leave it to the last minute to find you’ve forgotten a vital cable or computer cable.  Also remember to test the volume levels to ensure you can be heard from the back without deafening people at the front.  If there are multiple presenters then make sure they turn off their mikes when other people are speaking or audio-visual pieces are being played.  The last thing you want to hear is the dreaded howl of feedback.  If your presentation can’t be heard – or doesn’t sound professional – then nobody will take your idea seriously.

A visual feast

Strong visuals are an essential part of every presentation.  This doesn’t mean a long tedious video or dated power point presentation, but it does mean producing professional looking graphics which underline the points the speakers are making.

As for technology, it goes without saying that the speakers need to know how to operate everything, but to make certain that everything goes smoothly, make sure a tech expert is on hand.  You can even contact commercial theatre experts to evaluate your system.

At the very least you should confirm that pieces of equipment in your setup are compatible with one another yourself – the laptop and the projection system, for instance. Many modern laptops lack a VGA port, for example, while many older projection systems still require them.  In this age of the dongle, and a mix of Windows PCs and Macs, you can’t take interoperability for granted.  Never use wireless connections if you can use wires.  They may look a little old fashioned, but they’re much more likely to work.

If there are adjustable TV wall mounts then use them to ensure the ideal spot and angle for the screen if you are using one, otherwise make sure everything is safe and secure as well as working properly.  Finally, see to it that you have enough access to power sockets.  An extra multi-strip is never wasted.

Dealing with noise

The room needs to be quiet to allow people to immerse themselves in your presentation and hear you loud and clear. So, to get your messages across, inspect the venue for sources of external and internal disturbance. For instance, check whether a ventilation system, air conditioning, nearby traffic, or adjoining conference room could interrupt your flow.

Some of these problems are outside of your control, but others can be switched off or soundproofed to keep external noise at bay. One inexpensive way to go about this is to put drapes or screens over the windows— they act as a nice buffer to the outside world, focusing attention inside it

Lighting it up

Lighting is the final piece of the puzzle. If the sun is blazing onto your presentation screen, for example, nobody will be able to read it.  Following the proper standards of internal workplace illumination, the room should be well-lit by natural or artificial light so that you can discern the faces in the audience, but it must not blind you or cause glare on the screen.

Lighting for the speakers should preferably come from the sides. On the other hand, in an overly dark room, the slides may appear too bright. That would make you look like a black shadow in front of the screen and hide your body language and facial expressions. That is not part of the impression you want to leave.

Stealing the show

There are many elements to success and failure, but don’t strike out because you made a bad first impression with your room, or betrayed a high quality pitch with poor sound or lighting.  The quality of your presentation room can improve or hinder business communication and says a lot about your business. It’s not an afterthought, it’s the first consideration when getting your message across.

So, after all the initial preparation has been done, take a breath and give yourself some time to do a walk-through. Check one last time whether all the technology is in working order. Troubleshoot any issues that arise to avoid any unpleasant surprises later. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times and use them to your advantage. You can’t always control how well your message will taken, but you can control how well you get it across.  If the mechanics of the room are right, nobody will notice them, but they will get full value from your presentation.  Get any element of it wrong and you’ve lost before you’ve begun.

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Lillian Connors

As a senior business strategist, Lillian Connors believes that business must be more than the maximization of profit through different money-grabbing ploys. Ethical principles should be at the core of every commercial venture, paving the way for more balanced distribution of wealth on a global scale.