PowerPoint Failure or Bad Seating Arrangement?

woman teaching.jpg

How do you arrange a room so that the audience receives maximum benefit from the instructional style? Thats a big challenge for the speaker and the audience and I discussed this before in my post The Best Seats in the House. Let me tell you about an experience that has made me think about this again.

Last month on tour I had two audiences of about fifty people in two quite different rooms. The audiences heard the same presentations using the same powerpoint presentation, and the same speaker, (of course). In the first one, my friend Dr. Jack Sevy suggested we re-arrange the room. We removed ten or twelve chairs, and the seats were arranged theatre style with a center aisle. Participants sat close to each other, and there were very few empty chairs even on the front row. All had a good view of the screen where the powerpoint was showing. I was given a microphone that hung around my neck and it allowed me to move around.

The second venue was a similar large room but the setup was different. Here the participants sat classroom style, three at a table and spread out all over the room. No one sat close to anyone, really. And the mic was a standup mic that could be carried around in hand.

Dr. Sevy predicted that when people are sitting closer, they would feel better, less isolated, and my lecture would be better received. Now, I cannot isolate all the variables, but personally I felt the one Dr. Jack arranged the seating for worked better for me and the participants.

But why obsess over details like this? I truly believe that learning is directly impacted by the environment. Dr. Jack's search for group harmonics– sit close, but comfortable and feel you are with people who care- makes some sense. Thanks Doc.

You can check out Dr. Sevy's real interest at www.chiromoms.com. I'm trying to make a good genealogist out of a chiropractor. Its a challenge.

What are your thoughts?


2 responses to “PowerPoint Failure or Bad Seating Arrangement?

  1. Ken,

    I think two major factors here are the format of the speaker’s presentation and the seating setup. The key is that the audience should be able to view the screen without having to look around the speaker.

    The meeting I attended on Saturday had a speaker with a Powerpoint presentation and a clicker. She stood on the side of the screen and spoke – very articulate, but essentially reading the script from the screen, using a lapel mike. The room had a center aisle, and about 60 attendees. The first row was maybe 15 feet from the screen and the speaker – and the slides were easy to read from all rows.

    When I give my talks in our auditorium, I use overheads and don’t use a microphone. I use a podium to support my briefing book, and switch overheads on the projector to my left. I am essentially in the middle of the front of the room, and only 3 feet from the front row (which usually has few if any people in it). I block the view “up the middle” and when I start I ask people if they want to move because of it. I try not to move around too much in order to not block the view. I’m a victim (?) of the seating setup and the equipment available…but I’m confortable with it.

    Just some thoughts — Randy

  2. Randy,
    With a portable, wireless mic a spaker can b more mobile and move into the audience. There is more eye contact, and ,more personal contact.

    I too have caught myself reading the overheads or the powerpoint. Not a good thing. My friend Dr. Sevy was involved in inservice education in his profession and had his powerpoint presentation with a timed progression between slides- The slides did not always coincide with the presentation exactly, but he stopped looking at them. This takes several rehersals and an assistant with a stop watch to set up, but he claims it works. His visual presentation occasionally fades to black, and occasionally rests on a field of wildflowers while he catches up or summarizes a section of the presentation.

    Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s