Being a keynote speaker is not as easy as you might think. Some make the assumption that the only thing one must do is get up in front of an audience and talk to them. However, this is not entirely true. There are many factors that go into giving a speech at a business seminar or conference. Like anyone who gets up on stage, the speaker is a performer and one of the key factors they must consider is room geography.

According to the website, "Room geography is a simple science, which effectively applied, can make the difference between a so-so presentation and one that is spot-on." Some of the greatest modern organizers were masters of room geography. But a speaker does not have to be a brilliant social organizer to apply some of the more common rules of room geography to effective presenting.

Why Should a Keynote Speaker be Concerned About Room Geography?
Room geography is simply the location of key items of furniture in a room designated to host a presenter along with other environmental factors. Seating, for example, has been shown to affect student attitudes toward a teacher. Other environmental factors can affect audience attitudes and interest as well.

Organizing (or re-organizing) the setting of a room is nothing more than placing the speaker, the audience, the podium or dais, and any audio-visual equipment in a location that will enhance the speaker’s presentation. The Toastmasters, a non-profit organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills, offers a helpful "Room Setup Checklist" featuring twenty-three items.

Below are a few typical examples of how room geography can reinforce or detract from a presentation.

Keynote Speakers Should Opt for Maximum Control of the Room Environment
First, a speaker in a venue outside his/her home setting should have the name and cell phone number of the facilities staffer in charge of the room. Second, a speaker should arrive early enough to scout out the venue and make changes in the room’s environment if called for.

Positioning the speaker platform
The entrance/exit door to the room should be directly opposite the speaker. Entrance doors adjacent to, or at an angle to, the podium or dais will be constant sources of distraction as people come and go. Ideally, one or more spotlights will highlight the podium and the speaker.

Temperature, Room Lighting and Seating Arrangements are Critical Presentation Elements

Room temperature
An overheated room will make listeners groggy and inattentive. A too frigid temperature will prompt listeners to focus more on their comfort than the presentation. Some will leave in search of a more comfortable venue. A speaker should manipulate the thermostat as needed. If the thermostat is caged, as is often the case, the speaker should not hesitate to contact facilities staff to warm or cool the room.

Room lighting
If audience members are expected to take notes, sufficient illumination is needed. If the presenter is using Power Point slides, the room needs to be dark enough to read the slides, but not so dark that the audience becomes inert.

Most breakout rooms are set up classroom style, chairs in straight rows facing the podium or dais. A presenter who wants to engage the audience should re-arrange chairs as appropriate. Removing chairs down the middle gives the speaker a walking aisle and tells the audience that this speaker wants to connect..

If any feature of the room environment can not be altered, the keynote speaker should apologize to the audience. The apology is a gesture of good will which will usually be rewarded by an audience willing to ignore the discomforts.

These are very simple modifications to make in a speaking venue. But the speaker who takes the extra time to consider the seating and the ambiance will be rewarded by a more attentive, involved audience.