Guila Muir

Developing trainers, presenters and facilitators to make a difference

Can a Room Kill You? Yes!

How to Ensure Your Physical Space Works For You

Have you ever felt that something’s just not working right, no matter how well you know your material, how confident you came in, or how much you practiced?

You may be experiencing an attempted “Death by Room.” This malady has knocked many a trainer and presenter to their knees—and kept them there. The disease is preventable. But to overcome it, you must take these tips to heart.

3 Tips to Prevent “Death by Room”

1. Ask yourself: What do I want?

Do you want a dialogue or a monologue? Many presenters espouse one theory (for example, “participation is good,”) but everything they do communicates a different message (like “sit down, look at me, and shut up!”)

The seating arrangement provides a strong, non-verbal statement from the minute your participants walk in the door. Make sure your room set-up is congruent with your message.


If you desire interaction, you must provide a seating arrangement that allows participants to talk easily with one another, as well as with you. This may involve using round tables, a “U” shaped set-up, or rectangle tables pushed together. If you must use a “theater style” set-up, ensure that participants can move their chairs into small working groups of 3-5.

2. Don’t make assumptions.

Here are a few common assumptions that kill trainers/presenters:

  • “I sent a diagram—I know the room will be set up just like that.”
  • The space doesn’t matter. Content’s the thing.
  • I don’t need to see the room until it’s time for me to start.

TIP: When possible, set up the room yourself (with help, if necessary.) View the room the night before. If this isn’t possible, arrive at least one hour early. Remember, the way your space is organized can impact your presentation as much as your content knowledge.

By eliminating your assumptions, you’ll sleep better the night before an important event.

3. Rehearse in the room.

There is no way that a professional actor would work in a space in which he or she had not practiced. Professional trainers and presenters make the room their own by visiting it, testing it, and practicing in it.

TIP: Deliver the first 3-5 minutes of your presentation. Check the acoustics. Does the room absorb your voice, or can it carry with ease? Walk around the area from which you will present. What parts of the room could be blocked from view? Remember that all participants must be able to see you at all times.

Can a room kill you as a presenter? YES—but only if you allow it to. You can prevent “Death by Room” by attending to these three easy steps.


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