Jun 03

How Room Design May Affect Your Presentation

“…the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture in San Diego are encouraging interdisciplinary research into how a planned ­environment influences the mind…” Scientific American Mind, April 09

It’s interesting that research is being done into how the architecture of buildings affects mental ability. I think this research is interesting for those of us who have to make presentations. 
The article suggests that rooms with low ceilings might foster detailed thinking, whereas rooms with high ceilings may allow people to create loftier, more abstract ideas.

What might be interesting is to see the affect that rooms with these particular features affects groups in break-out sessions. It’s obviously going to depend upon what your ultimate aim is of your break-out session.

If you want your groups to have free-flowing ideas then rooms with higher ceilings may be of benefit. If on the other hand, they are to solve a specific problem with detailed thinking then rooms with low ceilings may be of benefit.

The research discussed in the article seems to suggest that it’s how the rooms with the different ceiling heights affect the individual. It’s to do with how the ceiling makes you feel, rather than having a specific height requirement.

Making Laughter Contagious

If your presentation or training session involves a lot of humour, you may benefit more from rooms with lower ceilings as this allows more opportunity for the sound of the laughter to bounce off. This means that you get to hear the laughs, which can help your timing.

By the same token, you would also be wise to make sure that the seats are placed fairly close together because laughter is contagious and you want it to spread faster than a conspicuous rash.

Boosting Attentiveness

The article also suggests that using rooms with ample daylight and greenery to boost attentiveness and academic performance. This is something that feels right because I’ve worked in offices in the past with no natural daylight and you do feel lousy afterwards.  In comparison, I have worked in an office with large windows that look out into a glass atrium with lots of daylight and felt much better on a day-to-day basis.

That’s not to say that you should take a sledgehammer and shrubbery with you every time you make a presentation. But it’s something worth bearing in mind when it comes to either hiring out rooms, or finding out which rooms you’re due to present in.

Avoid Speaking in the Open Air

You also want to make sure that you’re not involved in the opposite extreme of speaking in an atrium or, even worse, outside. I did in a gig in a atrium once and it was like being in a huge greenhouse. Hundreds of plants everywhere, running water and… swimming fish; I wish I was exaggerating.

The danger with a place like this is that there are too many distractions for the audience. Not only that but due to the spaciousness, lack of seating and super high ceiling the laughter didn’t exactly contage.

The same problem occurs when speaking outside. I’ve performed open air theatre a few times and unless the set is specifically designed for adequate acoustics, then you haven’t got a hope in hell of people hearing you. If you’re being funny, forget it. There is a high chance that what you’re saying will get lose and your timing could be thrown off as the sound of the laughter could dissipate in the open space.

I think using sound equipment outside would also be a bad idea as well as there are too many variables like bad quality sound, feedback, weather and so on.

So next time you have to make a presentation or give a speech, take a moment to consider how the room design may affect those around you.

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