A lively presentation starts with the seating

Use these seating strategies to wake up audience members—and keep them engaged during your presentation:

  • Orient your presentation. Position yourself and your visuals against the long side of the room whenever possible. Reason: That way, the last row of seating will be as close to the action as possible.
  • Don’t trap participants. Most people prefer to sit by aisles, so keep rows short or add an aisle down the middle. Avoid placing chairs next to walls, so people will not feel fenced in.
  • Limit distractions. Inevitably, people will move about during the session to answer a phone, visit the restroom or seek refreshments. Reduce the damage those disruptions cause by making sure that no attendee has to squeeze past more than six people to arrive at a seat.

Hint: If you see a steady stream of people heading for the exits or the coffee table, remind your audience of the next scheduled break.

  • Move them up. Don’t let attendees congregate at the back of the room. Force them to the front by placing “Reserved” signs on the back tables or seats. Alternatively, don’t put out chairs for seating in the rear. Keep chairs stacked until the front rows fill.

Note: Don’t tip up chairs to keep attendees from sitting in the back. People may trip over the chair legs as they walk forward into the room.

—Adapted from “Room Set-Up for Maximum Mirth,” Tom Antion, www.antion.com.

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