Connecting with an audience, having a conversation with them, is not easy – especially if it is a large audience. One thing you can do is to remove the barriers, “the bricks in the wall”, which stand between you and them. Much like a tall center piece makes it difficult to have a conversation with a person across the dining table, physical elements in a meeting room can act like center pieces, like walls, and make it hard to connect with your audience. Examples of these physical barriers include podiums, tables and distance from the audience.
A while ago I did a presentation in a room that had some “bricks” between the speaker and the audience. My routine pre-presentation check of my slides, videos, and audio went well, but the physical setup of the room was challenging. Anywhere I stood on the stage there was a physical barrier between myself and part of the audience.
Podiums (see the picture above) are particular bad for most speakers, including me; they create a wall. If you are very tall perhaps you may get away with it, but the vast majority of speakers get lost to the audience when they are behind a podium. When I asked the hotel about changing the set up of the room their response was “no”, they really couldn’t. The podium and cables were secured to the stage and they couldn’t move the tables.
They did however provide me with a wireless microphone. This enabled me to stand in the best place I could think of – the floor in front of the stage, which is where I presented from. You need to be seen to be truly “heard” and figuring this out should be part of your preparation. Sometimes you have few options, but as presenters we need to consider how to ensure a connection with the audience.
There can be physical “bricks” that create a wall between you and your audience, make the effort to get rid of as many of them as you can.
My wife and editor decided to buy this center piece because it was decorative, low and unobtrusive.