What would you do? – The room

What would you do - the room

As speakers and trainers, we always want to arrive early. There are just so many potential things that need fixing that I want to have at least an hour, just to be on the safe side. Projector, audio, light, microphones: they usually take the bulk of my time. But there is also the room itself.

Recognise this?
You walk into the room where you are going to give this inspirational workshop, full of interaction and participation, and… it’s a square, or U-shape of tables. Blocking interaction, taking up your valuable space, basically set up ideally for the attendants to zoom out as fast as possible.

The tables need to go.

We need space – to walk around, to see and be seen, to interact, to be creative.
But sometimes it’s hard to get them out of the way.

Last Thursday I gave a training in a small, cosy and creative room. Full of table. People could hardly reach their chairs. The tables needed to go. But where? No place to stack them, no hallway to move them to.

But here was a balcony. And with the help of some volunteers, that’s where they went. We had a fun workshop.

That was an easy one.

Just the day before I arrived early at another venue to prepare for a full day workshop. I walked into a horror. The picture above is from the actual room.

This room was booked within an organization with a standard booking system. You need a projector? Sound? Lecture room 4. Not that the other lecture rooms were any better. Or even available.

That room may have a great setup for computer classes, but I don’t do computer classes. For presentation skills this is, let’s say, slightly less than optimal. So…. what would you do?

What did we do?
We moved.

We managed to find a small cosy conference room. Without projector, but with a flip chart. I had to give up my slides, but that was a small price to pay. Priorities are priorities.

There’s a lot more to say on setting the room, but for now, let me close with these 3 tips:

Tip1 : ask for pictures of the room
Tip 2: arrive early to change things to your liking
Tip 3: have someone from the organisation arrive early

Bonus tip: stay flexible, stay creative!

Left! Right! Mirroring on stage.

Do you mirror in your presentations? When you gesture, do you translate your gestures for the audience?

Let’s assume you and your audience are from a left-to-right-writing culture. Then your imagery is also left to right.

  • Before is left, after is right.
  • Growth is a line from bottom left to top right.
  • Past, present, future is left, middle, right.
  • Pros are on the right, cons are on the left.

You get the idea.

For whom?

But whose left and right? Yours? Or the audience’s?

The answer of course should be: the audience’s. And that is called mirroring: you flip your gestures to make them more easily understandable for them. Does that matter? Yes, it does.

On a cognitive level they will be perfectly able to follow you if you don’t mirror, but you’re making it harder on the subconscious level. They have had a lifelong programming of what left and right are supposed to mean, and if you go against it you’re making your message fuzzy at best. It might even be that they don’t accept your reasoning but can’t really tell why. The unconscious is a powerful force.

Now of course this left-to-right is a cultural thing. Speaking to Arabs for example, your gestures need to be from right to left instead of left to right. For a mixed audience you’ll have to make it depend on the writing system of the language you’re presenting in.

Ad failure in Saoudi Arabia, where they read from right to left. Order matters.


If you don’t mirror – yet – it may take some training to get it ingrained in your system. After all, you have a lifelong conditioning as well. But mirroring is a habit that’s not too hard to gain.

How do you practice movement? By doing it. Consciously. For your next speech or presentation, go over your gestures. Any gesture that’s not symmetrical is a candidate to be flipped.

Do I mean to say that you have to rehearse and plan all your gestures? Of course not, I’ve seen speeches of people doing that, and it doesn’t look real. But in GETTING fluent in mirroring, you need to plan and rehearse those gestures that need to be mirrored. That means they may look a bit odd in the beginning, but you’ll soon grow over that, and start mirroring automatically.

Do YOU mirror?

Have you always done so, or did you train yourself to do so? If so, any tips?