Monday, January 3, 2011

Know the room before you get up to speak

Before you begin a public speaking engagement you should get to know the room. Every room is unique. What you don’t know may surprise you later. Also don’t forget to check other features of the building, like locations of restrooms and water fountains.

The Capitol Club Toastmasters meet just after noon on Wednesdays. We use the Cedars Conference Room at the Boise Housing and Community Development building The U-shaped seating layout for our meetings is shown above. With two people per table we can fit an audience of 16 club members. When we have more than that, we can easily add rows of tables at the back, as I have shown above for 24 people.

This room is L-shaped, about 28 feet wide by 50 feet deep. It is small enough and live enough that we don’t need a public address system. Double entry doors at the front are near the front entrance for the building. The left wall has windows with vertical blinds for light control. Near the back of the left wall is an exit door, which we usually ignore.

There are whiteboards along the front wall. The ceiling has chandeliers and recessed spotlights. The right wall has an 8-foot table for literature, food, or drinks. A supply of 1.5-foot by 6- foot tables and stacking chairs are stored along the back wall, so the seating arrangements can easily be changed to fit different groups for meetings or classes. There sometimes is an easel for flip charts stored along the back wall.

A table at the front holds our lectern, and has room for a laptop computer and projector for PowerPoint presentations. We use the whiteboards on the front wall instead of a flip chart, and also as a projection screen.

With the chandeliers off we can display PowerPoint, when the slides have dark letters on a light background. Those whiteboards are not reflective enough to provide good contrast for light letters on a dark background.

Once the front entrance to the building was blocked for repainting. That day we got in via the side exit door. During our meeting so did four confused visitors looking for the way to the front desk. Fortunately the Toastmaster that day worked at a credit union and had excellent customer relations skills. Maxine calmly greeted each of them, and then directed them out the entrance doors.

A kitchen is adjacent to the back of the conference room. It is used by Life’s Kitchen, a food-service training program for at-risk young adults. They run a Cafe that serves lunch in another room in the building. Their young employees almost never interrupt our meetings with outbursts like on the TV show Hell’s Kitchen.

For PowerPoint I bring a file box containing my laptop computer and projector, with the connecting cable, and a remote control. I also bring an extension cord to plug into the outlet at the center of the front wall and run to to the front of the table next to the lectern. A three-way adapter plugs into the extension cord. A small 2x4” wood block raises the front of the projector so the top of the image is near the top of the whiteboard and visible to the entire audience. The speakers on my laptop computer are not loud enough to fill the room. When I need audio, I also bring along a boombox radio with an auxiliary input jack, and a connecting cable to the headphone output on the laptop.

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