Setting up Boardrooms, Classrooms and Auditoriums for Better Presentations

How to Set Up a Room for Your Power Point Presentation

How you set up the meeting room, conference room or auditorium for your big presentations can have a surprising impact on its effectiveness. You may not have control over some or all of the following elements, but exercise it wherever you can.

Physical Layout

Much of the physical layout of tables and chairs is determined by common sense, number of attendees and the layout of the room. For example, if you are speaking to 500 people, classroom style tables and chairs are probably not going to work. If you’re presenting to 6 people, theater style just looks silly. Here are the 3 most common room arrangements you’ll choose from and the best way to set up each:

Boardroom – there’s a conference table with a people seated at it. If there are more people that elbow room, chairs will be arrayed around the room. Presenting in Boardrooms can be great provided that:

a)      There’s a good presentation system installed – this would include a drop down screen, ceiling mounted projector and a place for you to plug in your laptop.

b)      There aren’t too many attendees. Boardrooms have limited seating and crowding in additional chairs guarantees distractions during your presentation.

c)       Picture windows are under control. I never understood the logic of putting a great, sunny view in a boardroom full of people who should be looking at each other. Sunny and presentation screens don’t do well together.

If you’re in luck and the preceding is handled already you only have to concern yourself with a few things:

d)      Get their early to hook up your laptop. Bring your presentation on a thumb drive just in case you need to plug into their computer. Make sure it all works before everyone gets there.

e)      Move chairs, don’t be shy. It’s important that you don’t let people sit so close to you that it’s hard to move, or so close to the screen they can’t see.  

f)        Understand how the lights and blinds work. Don’t turn off the lights. If you need to turn the lights off, you’re probably giving a crappy presentation (see: How to Tell Your Power Point Presentation is Crap on InfoBarrel)

g)       Stand on the left of the screen. Boardrooms always have their projection screen in front of the whiteboard at one end. English and Spanish speakers read from left to right so if you stand to the left it’s natural for your audience to see you first, then the slide. This goes for every room arrangement.

If the Boardroom isn’t pre-set, you’ll need to bring or set up your projector and laptop on the table itself. Yuk. All of the points above still apply, but there are a few additional points:

a)      Use the holes in the boardroom table for power, etc. Most modern conference room tables have holes or pop ups for power and cables. Get down under there and run your cables as unobtrusively as possible. That why you’re there EARLY. There’s no way to gracefully do this when everyone’s already seated.

b)      Many presenters will position themselves standing right up against the table so they can advance the slides. Don’t do that. You’re in someone’s way, or standing creepily close to someone trying to see the presentation. Buy a remote and step back as far as possible. Don’t go crazy, just get a simple one by Targus.

Classroom – don’t expect to find actual desks and chairs a la Anytown HS. Classroom style usually consists of 6 or 8’ folding tables butted up against each other, end to end. Chairs behind, water, pencils ready. Some of the preceding apply in every circumstance; get there early, know the lights, stand on the left. All of those things are equally easy in a classroom style room if there’s a professional installed AV system present. If not:

a)      Portable screen – if you’re provided one or have brought one of the new, much more professional and easy to use lift UP screens like from EZ Cinema, put it in the right hand corner. You get to stand in the middle. The great part of this arrangement is not only that you can use the whiteboard during your presentation if you’d like, but that more people can actually see the screen at that angle. It also creates more space between where you can stand and interact with the screen and your first row of “students.

b)      Psychology of the Classroom – it’s not really a set up tip per se, but I’ve notice that people in a classroom setting are more responsive when called on. Use that to enhance your presentation.

The U – is basically the classroom style, but with few enough people and a big enough room to make it more boardroom-like. Those same 6 or 8’ tables arranged in a U shape, chairs on the outside facing it. Everything still applies if the system is pre-installed, just re-read the Boardroom set up. If not:

a)      Portable screen – when you set up the screen, you can actually offset it just to the right a bit rather than over in the corner as in the Classroom style. You still stand on the left, but you and the screen share the middle. This is because if you put the screen in the far right corner ½ of your audience will send you their chiropractic bills.

b)      Projector Placement – can be tough. Hopefully there’s a SMALL table or cart you can put the projector on. In the U style, put your laptop on the floor by the projector where you can see and still use your remote.

c)       You in the U – the best thing about the U set up is it allows you to be so much more interactive. Walk out into the middle of the U and take questions, make points, be part of the visual presentation yourself.

Presenting in unfamiliar territory can be a challenge, but using the steps outlined above will help you make a greater impact. Don’t be afraid to call ahead and quiz your destination about the environment you’ll be presenting in so you can be prepared. Boardroom, Classroom, or U?