Tuesday, 19 June 2012

5 key aspects to staging effective presentations

This is a long post so take a look at the numbered headings and then scroll down to the information you are after.

1. PREPARATION - 2. THE LAYOUT OF THE ROOM - 3. THE SIZE OF THE AUDIENCE - 4. TEAM PRESENTATIONS - 5.CHECK LISTS Checklist for Presentation Organisers - Presenters’ Equipment Checklist


"If anything can go wrong, it will, and at the worst possible moment." 

 Murphy's Law might almost have been written about presentations.  There are so many things that can go wrong in business presentations that it is essential to minimise the risk - but also accept that you can never eliminate the risk totally.

4 Theatres in London's  Shaftsbury Avenue
In foreground The Lyric Theatre opened 1888,
Apollo opened 1901,
Gilegud ( Formerly the Globe 1906
 and back of photo The Queens Theatre
The best way to do this is to treat the stage management as an extension of the presentation and give it as much thought and preparation as you do to the presentation itself. 

 When everything has been fully prepared, rehearse every aspect of the presentation.

Wherever possible try to arrange to give your presentation on your own premises. This will significantly reduce the risk of unforeseen and uncontrollable events disrupting your presentation.

For many people, this will not be possible. 

You will be required to give presentations at your client's premises or at a hotel or conference centre. 

In this situation the best possible advice is to visit the venue in advance, in order to ensure as far as possible that you will be able to control the environment.

When the members of the audience enter the room they will immediately start to make their judgements. 

 Does the room look comfortable?  Does it make them feel at ease and does it look as though it has been well planned for an interesting presentation? 

 Whatever their initial impression, this is likely to colour their attitude to your presentation.

The room must therefore look tidy, but if there are interesting items you will use in your presentation, these can be placed on your table or desk so that the audience knows that it will be an interesting presentation.

London's West End Shaftsbury Avenue
 in the heart of Theatreland
Consider whether you wish to use name/' tent'  cards to place in front of each member of your audience.  This is always to be recommended where the audience is sufficiently small for you to address them by name. 

 It is also useful to put names on both the front and back of the cards so that you can still read the names if you move away from the front of the room.

As the size of the audience increases, e.g. above 30, it becomes more difficult to address individuals by name.  In a gathering of such a size, if members of the audience ask questions, it is advisable to ask them to identify themselves by name.  If the meeting has been arranged by a company, they will probably have arranged for the audience to wear their names on lapel badges.

The comfort of your audience must be a prime consideration. Check that the temperature in the room is at the right level - nothing induces sleep more quickly in an audience than a stuffy room where the temperature is too high.  Make sure that you know where all the lighting and temperature controls are and how they work!

Ensure that drinks (non-alcoholic!) are available and designate smoking area. Be aware that smoking areas can be some way from the presentation room - sometimes even outside the building so at the breaks your smokers can be take some time going and returning to the room. see * Check whether there is a clock in the room or whether you will need to take your own. 

Avoid glancing at your wrist-watch as this might indicate you are anxious for the presentation to end!

Let everybody know where washrooms/ toilets / cloakrooms are and if necessary put sign-boards up to help them find the meeting room.  Make sure you know where the fire exits are and that you explain the escape routes to your audience.

* Give your audience frequent breaks to allow them to relax and renew their powers of concentration.  For conferences and half day / full day events a  60 minute rule which ensures that you never go longer than 60 minutes without having a short break is a good idea.

A key point to remember is that if anything happens to upset a member of your audience it may have a major influence on their reaction to your presentation. 

It is important that you clarify with the hotel manager or the conference organiser exactly how messages are to be dealt with. Hotels who do not specialise in conference work may need guidance from you on this.

As well as its theatrical connections today,
 Drury Lane was the location of the first J Sainsbury store.
 The store  at no 173 was opened in 1869
  You will not want telephone interruptions during your presentation, so arrange that, unless it is a matter of the utmost urgency, messages will be delivered at break-times or put on a board where the audience know they should look for such messages.

Clearly you require the maximum co-operation from the conference manager or whoever is responsible for your venue.  For this reason you must give them the fullest details in advance of your requirements; make sure that they are understood and that they can be met. 

Keep a note of the name of the manager and how to contact him, together with similar details for his deputy and one other person who would assist you if both the manager and his deputy are unavailable.


Now consider how you want the room to be arranged.

Lecterns and raised stages can form a barrier between the presenter and the audience but do help with  audience sight lines for larger conferences. 

 The closer you get to your audience, the more chance you have of establishing a rapport with them. 

The size of the audience and the style of presentation (formal or informal) will influence the way in which you arrange the seating plan.  The main choices will be between auditorium or theatre style, classroom style or a U-shaped arrangement.

The U-shape allows you to move into your audience and to get more involvement with them, whereas the classroom style enables you to accommodate a larger audience and is much more formal.  If there are more than say 30 people, the auditorium style is likely to be essential.


Many presentations are made to small groups - perhaps no more than six people. 

With such a small group, the advantage is that you are able to convince the individuals of the message you are presenting.  Their doubts and questions can be resolved and their views can be considered.  This is a much more intimate type of presentation and it is essential to involve the audience by asking questions and inviting their comments.

As the numbers increase, so the nature of the presentation has to be adapted.  With an audience in excess of 30, dialogue and communication between presenter and audience becomes very difficult.  Audience reaction becomes more difficult to interpret and one person looking puzzled may have to be ignored unless it is the most senior person there, whereas a similar reaction from a number of people will warn you of the necessity for further explanation.

With larger audiences individual communication and eye contact is almost impossible.  Remember, however, that if you look at a group of people it will appear to the individuals in the audience that you are in fact looking at them.
In this situation, you need to be more expansive; in terms of your gestures, your smile and particularly your voice.  You must project your voice if you are to ensure that even those right at the back of the room can hear you easily.

You may, however, have a microphone provided.  It is essential to practise with the microphone in advance and get used to the particular model you are using.  The recommended position is at chin height about six inches away from you. This positioning will enable you to speak easily in a conversational style. 

 Avoid touching the microphone as this will distort the sound.  Remember that with a stationary microphone you are not free to move around as it may fail to pick up your voice and the volume will vary.
If you use a small microphone ( radio mike) clipped to your dress or jacket you will be more free to move around.

Wherever possible, try to manage without a microphone, but if you do use one rehearse with it in advance.
Bear in mind that a large audience is not appropriate for the explanation of complicated concepts.  It is, however, ideal for appealing to the interests of a large group and calling for group commitment to a common purpose.


If you are one of a number of speakers, it is important to ensure that each speaker knows the subject area he is to cover in order that embarrassing duplication is avoided.  Try to arrange smooth links between each presentation and explain why different subjects are being covered by the different speakers.

If you are speaking at a seminar or conference where there are a number of speakers from different companies, try to arrange to be the first speaker.  Audiences will generally remember best the first and last speakers, yet the last speaker may be left with less time than he had planned if previous presenters have overrun their allotted times.

If you are scheduled to speak in the middle of a meeting try to arrange that you speak after a break.  This will give you time to prepare your stage management and get used to the stage.


The size of your audience and of the room will have an effect on the type of visual aid which you should use.

The larger the group and room, the more important it is to ensure that any visual aid you use can be seen very clearly especially by those sitting furthest from you.  What has been said about visuals not containing too much detailed information or writing, is even more important when presenting to a large audience.  If the occasion justifies however, you may be able to use much more sophisticated visual aids.

You may consider, for a presentation at a large conference, commissioning a production company to organise your visual aids with sound equipment, lighting and several slide projectors, to provide a more polished and professional image for your presentation.
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on London's Bankside
"All the world's a stage..."


At a more basic level, what are the things that you need to check before making any presentation at a venue you have not used before?
Have you ever found yourself in the position of wanting to show a video clip or you tube clip only to find the Internet connection is not available.

If your laptop takes an age to fire up  and loading of software conferencing link, skype webex etc  fire it up ahead.

  It is this kind of thing that can destroy a presentation, leaving you looking foolish, so it is essential to be well equipped to cover any eventuality.
In order to ensure that you are always prepared for any situation, use the check lists supplied at the end of this post for you to use whenever you are required to make a presentation.

As with the presentation itself, the key to successful stage management is thorough preparation.  Know what you need to check and what you need to arrange.  Give yourself ample time to ensure that everything has been organised and arranged in order that your presentation will have the impact which you require.

After any presentation, carry out your own post mortem - was there any piece of equipment which I did not have that I needed?  If so, amend your check list to ensure that you take it with you for future presentations.

Checklist for Presentation Organisers ( Basic list)

1. Accommodation  2.Office facilities 3. Printing AND Stationery   4. Food AND Drink  5. Equipment  6. Entertainment  7. Miscellaneous ( Scroll down to the numbered section you need)

1.ACCOMMODATION                              2. OFFICE FACILITIES

Manager                                             Photocopier

Deputy Manager                                Fax (number)

Number of delegates                         Telephones 

Names of delegates                            

Check in/Check out times

Map of venue


CONFERENCE                                      Joining instructions

Conference room layout                      Programme

Syndicate rooms                                 Name cards/badges

Coffee/Tea - location /tabling            Brochures

Lunch/Dinner - timings

Special dietary requirements

Registration arrangements                  4.  FOOD AND DRINK

Fire exits                                            Pre-dinner drinks

                                                          Private dining facilities



Note pads/pens
                                                            6. ENTERTAINMENT

Projector                                              Leisure facilities ( Gym, pool etc)

Screen                                                Music/entertainment


Flip chart



Lectern                                             7.  MISCELLANEOUS

Microphone                                        Who pays for what!

Lights                                                 Transport

Heating                                              Access & Parking

Electric sockets                                   Insurance

Message boards                                  Photographs policy


                                                         Security badges / do they need to be photographed for badges This can be time consuming ( Will you have to sign in delegates at reception? At a recent course for a bank I had to do so which meant leaving the presentation room and going to reception desk to vet delegates - this both disrupts the presentation as well as loses valuable time)

Presenters’ Equipment Checklist


Video/Monitor                             Contingency slide deck on memory stick

Camera                                       Video diskettes

Microphone                                Posters / Prepared Flip charts

Computer                                    Clock

Printer                                        Personal notes ( Confidence Sheets or cue cards)

Connector leads                          Handouts

Extension plugs                           Pens for flip chart
Spare bulbs                                  Flip chart paper /pad

Spare batteries                            CDs DVDs

Remote controls                          Name cards / Tent Cards

Power bank                                 Order forms





Whiteboard/Flip chart

Projection screen


Stand /desk for laptop

Any additions to the checklist please put them in the comments box below and I will add them. Thanks

Related links

Tips to control nerves  at business presentations

Use of VOICE in Effective Business Presentations

Tips on resenting with PowerPoint in business

Presentation Skills

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