Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Speaking to the coach section of the plane
Long, narrow rooms can be some of the most disappointing places for a speaker. Dr. Paul Radde has discussed how they may come from using movable walls to split hotel ballrooms into four to eight thin slivers.
The result may remind you either of a bowling alley, or the interior of an airplane. If the speaker doesn’t plan ahead, then the seating will be arranged like the coach section of an airliner (with the speaker standing forlornly at the front end). This is ineffective.
In a brief article on his Thrival Systems web site Dr. Radde discusses a better, J Shape, seating arrangement. (Click on the Articles tab, and then click on Optimizing the Narrow Room). He suggests instead that the chairs should be set to the long wall. Put two aisles at 45 degrees. Curve the seat rows so the audience can see both the speaker and each other.
You can read more about his seating strategies for meetings in his 175-page book, Seating Matters, or in an 8-page handout from a SpeakerNet News teleseminar. You also can read two briefer magazine articles here, and here.
Dr. Radde has devised five general principles for seating:
1. Set to the long side of the room. No bowling alley!
2. Flare aisles off the podium at 45 degrees to the back exits. No center aisle!
3. Face each chair toward the presentation. No straight rows!
4. Cut single chair access lanes (every 6th or 7th chair) into long rows.
5. For breakout or concurrent sessions, set the last row on the back wall.
A speaker still may encounter some rather bizarre boardroom layouts. Lisa Braithwaite has blogged about two where the Ceremonial Center Table presumably was permanently fastened to the floor.