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A Positive Speaking Environment
By Chris Joscelyne

Several years ago I was the guest speaker at a franchising industry breakfast at the Darling Harbour Convention Centre in Sydney. It was a typical Sydney winter's morning fine and clear with a spectacular sunrise.

The room had been prepared with the speaker's lectern on the eastern side of the room in front of huge ceiling-to-floor windows overlooking the city. Yes, you guessed it. I had to stand in front of that spectacular view and compete with it for the attention of the audience. It was a tough task.

Ever since, I have paid very careful attention to room set-up. My goal is to create the most positive environment for the audience. Sometimes this requires rearrangement of the room, so I always discuss this with meeting organisers well before the event.

If you are organising a meeting, seminar or conference, you can apply some simple and logical ideas that will create a positive environment for your speakers and your audience.

Here are my suggestions:

  • Place seats for least external distractions - visual and noise
  • Locate the presentation area as close as you can to the audience
  • For a small audience, use a semi-circular seating layout
  • Avoid long narrow rooms - rear rows will feel isolated from the speaker
  • Guide attendees towards front rows by placing "Reserved" signs on rear rows - these signs can be removed as the room fills
  • Ensure sufficient isles so that audience members do not have to cross more than five others to get to a seat
  • For a large audience, set isles wider closer to the exits.
  • Keep room lights bright unless data projection or slides are to be used
  • If room lights are dimmed for a slideshow, put a soft light on the presenter - don't leave the presenter in the dark.
  • Ensure that windows can be covered if natural light must be reduced for screen presentations
  • Test and ensure that the sound and audio-visual equipment is reliable
  • Have backup equipment and a backup plan in case of equipment failure
  • Provide cool water and a fresh drinking glass for each speaker - this is often forgotten
  • Check room temperature for comfort - a hot or cold room kills concentration
  • Ensure that food and beverage arrangements are appropriate
  • Locate toilets - if they are some distance from the room post a direction sign
  • Be aware of emergency exit locations
  • Make sure there are signs displayed to direct attendees to your room.

By following this checklist you can create a positive environment for speaking, listening and learning. It works for me and I hope it works for you too.

About the author: Chris Joscelyne trained as a clinical hypnotherapist under the tutorage of Margaret Tomko. He was taught grief counselling by Mal McKissock, and he learned meditation in a course sponsored by the Department of Health. He developed his personal awareness knowledge with mentors Barbara and Terry Tebo of Lifespring.

For ten years Chris was a visiting lecturer at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School where he taught personal development, meditation and stress management skills. Now he shares his knowledge with a wider community as a speaker, trainer and coach, teaching people how to live "Life by choice - not by chance".

The original version of this article can be found at www.positivepath.net/ideasCJ6.asp