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Speaking can be quite a cerebral activity, so it’s nice to get practical every once in a while. This week we’re looking at the nuts and bolts of the job: the room layout, the A/V equipment, the overhead projector… you know, all the things that can ruin your day if they stop working. (Next week, for Halloween, we’ll feature speaking ‘horror stories’ – I’m sure there’ll be a few equipment malfunction tales in there!)

As speakers, we can get wrapped up in the more intellectual aspects of the job; paying attention to real-world stuff can be a chore. But it’s this ‘stuff’ that can make or break a talk. Your talk may be the best in the world, but if your microphone isn’t working, nobody will know. In this issue, we try to show you how focusing on practicalities need not be boring. I’m especially delighted to feature a guest blog from Pauline Kwasniak, an expert in venues, and in the art of matching venues to events. I hope you find some benefit in it, and the newsletter as a whole.


This week we’re delighted to feature a guest blog post from venue expert Pauline Kwasniak.

How to make the venue setup work for you as a speaker

The current trend in event management and design is engagement.

Organizers want their events to be engaging. Everyone is talking about the importance of technology and using it to influence engagement. Various apps have been created to facilitate this – but I don’t hear so much about the speaker and the power he or she has as a person to influence and engage attendees.

Have you ever considered the effect the venue or room layout has on the speaker, and on the delegate engagement we are trying to create?

How to handle different room setups for delegate engagement


Classroom (or theatre) setup style makes us listen and constantly look at the speaker. Like a teacher in high school, the speaker has authority in this room layout. This is one of the most popular styles for large conferences and events. It’s not hard to see why: it is designed to make people listen. The speaker arrives onto the stage and can make eye contact with the audience. They have full control of the audience.

  1. Invite some delegates onto the stage and make them do certain activities with you. You can observe this approach often with magicians or comedians and it really works. As the audience, we love seeing one of us out there on the stage. This approach works wonders in professional events and conferences.

  2. Ask questions and have microphones ready to pass around the audience. There are various tools such as throwable microphones. These are nothing more than a plush toy with a mic inside that you can throw around the audience and have them engage in conversations with you and with each other. The effect is that audience members turn around and look at each other. A very good approach with this layout is to ask the audience to share some of their personal experiences on the matter rather than answer difficult questions. That way, they will never worry if they answer ‘wrong’.

U shape

This is my favourite layout for speakers to create engagement.

We, the audience, are still facing the speaker and the stage, but we are also facing each other. Don’t worry – this room layout works really well even with numbers up to 100 (if you have a big enough room). What is really great about this setup is that the delegates will engage with you as a speaker voluntarily. They will also talk to each other and make more connections.

  1. Pair people up and have them write something. With a U-shaped room layout, you have the advantage of the table. So do ask delegates to pair up and have them write some short examples or answers to a few questions. Keep it sweet and simple. Do not move people around as it creates chaos.

  2. Have a ‘pass-around’. Pass around a list to which participants can add something and express their feelings or ideas. Or pass around an object that people can touch or try out.

Reception style

People are standing in one big room, outdoor space, or terrace. There are a few options here. However, the most important thing is that people talk and mingle with one another.

  1. Provide little tall tables for people to gather around. We create small groups and that is inevitable, but without the small tables to lean on or to rest drinks on, this setup can be really annoying and awkward.

  2. This layout works great during lunch, welcome reception or farewell cocktails. No matter what, little canapés and drinks will keep people nourished. I must say this is the only setup where I actually encourage the organizers to serve the food, as in this this set up, eating is not a distraction from the speaker.

  3. As this setup prompts conversation (even if there is a speech happening and participants were asked to keep silent for the time being!), there is always some chatter happening so make sure to use very good mic and A/V system – loud and clear.

Ballroom / gala dinner

If you happen to speak to an audience who are invited to a gala dinner setup, you are in luck. People are sitting at round tables and interacting with each other.

  1. The stage effects matter the most here. There is so much happening at the beautiful tables, champagne, starters, decorations – people tend to naturally look away from the stage. But not if you provide some great entertainment or light effects. This is a setup where you can show off on the stage as a speaker with various effects: music, video , lasers, lights, AR, holographs, magic tricks and so on.

  2. Speak during the breaks between courses — and never when the food is being served. Ask for the second course to be served after your talk. With this room setup, we are dealing with cutlery, hot plates, nice suits and expensive dresses. In reception style, we can look at the stage as we eat small bites; sitting down we must be more mindful of our manners and our food.

As a speaker, you cannot always influence the setup of the space you are in. However, you can definitely influence the delivery model in order to engage the delegates and leave lasting memories. Make the room setup complement your speaking style and add to your presentation. Good luck.




Voxgig Podcast

Coming Soon… 

I am delighted to announce that  voxgig is starting a podcast series! The title of the series is ‘Fireside with voxgig’. In each podcast, I’ll be interviewing leading experts from the events industry.  The aim is to deliver high quality insights, valuable public speaking tips and enjoyable personal success stories, all in a relaxed, informal and chatty style. Keep an eye out here for the first podcast in the series, coming soon. 

Speaker Profile

Photo of Gerry Katzman in front of a microphone and stand

Microphone Technique For Speakers, Performers and Entertainers / Master Talent Teachers

Gerry Katzman

We’ve all been to a meetup or conference when a speaker is not using their microphone properly. Microphone use can be broken down into just a couple of steps:

  • The type of microphone – is it omnidirectional or unidirectional?
  • Distance from microphone to mouth: 1 to 3 fingers space.

  • Wherever you go, the mic goes. Follow your head movements with the mic.

  • When using a stand, keep the microphone at chin level so the audience can see your facial expressions.

Learn from the Best

Picture of childhood Knight on a white horse costume

My love letter to cosplay
Adam Savage,

I love this talk for lots of different reasons: the storytelling, the enthusiasm, but most of all for the beautiful creative mind.  I’m using it in this newsletter to highlight exactly how to use PowerPoint to highlight and add emphasis to what is a wonderful story.

Tell me…

What is your biggest challenge as an event speaker?

This newsletter is for you. I want it to resonate with you.

So go ahead, hit reply, and tell me what you want to read about. Or email me at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig.

I’ll address the most pressing issues in each edition.

Blog Post

What speakers need

A comprehensive list of what speakers need from conference organizers.  The list is on GitHub and you have the option of adding your own input if there is anything missing.

Emily Webber

Speaker Training

Do you speak at conferences? Want to learn how to give the very best talks? Or are you just starting out and want to overcome the fear of speaking on stage?
We are running speaker training workshops in Dublin, Ireland and London, U.K. over the coming months.

Speaker workshops are £150

There is an early bird price of £100 if booked a month in advance.
To find out more follow the links below

Giving great talks with Russ Miles

London, UK – Thursday November 8, 2018 | More Details

Three Conferences

Running Remote advertising banner for 2019 conference

World’s Largest Remote Work Conference

Running Remote, 29-30 June, 2019. Bali.

If you’re running a remote team or are serious about starting one, this is the conference for you.

Running Remote is carefully curated to teach you next-level, actionable strategies and tactics you can utilize the very next day to build and scale your remote team. Meet leading tech companies, thought leaders and founders of global, distributed teams.

INTED 2019 Banner

INTED is one of the largest international education conferences for lecturers, researchers, technologists and professionals from the educational sector. After 13 years, it has become a reference event where more than 700 experts from 80 countries get together to present their projects and share their knowledge on teaching and learning methodologies and innovations on educational technology. The 2019 edition of INTED is sure to be among the most successful education conferences in Europe.

image of Paris Fin & Tech Forum banner

Paris Fintech Forum, organized by Altéir, is back for 2019. The event gathers 2,600+ attendees over two days in the very heart of Paris to listen to 220+ CEOs and C-levels from banks, insurance, telco, regulators and, of course, fintech professionals from all continents.

Over 220 fintech CEOs from all over the world will be in both panels and interviews and on our stage dedicated to pitches and showcases. Over two days, PFF will address all key issues at the heart of the news of digital finance in general and fintech in particular. The event will take place at the former French stock market exchange in the heart of Paris.

Upcoming CFP Deadlines

October 30, DevFest Greece, Episode VI Return of the Jedi -Heraklion, Crete, Greece

November 29 2018, INTED 2019Valencia

November 30 2018, GopherCon, Vietnam

December 15 2018, Serverless days, Jaipur India




A favour…

Can I ask you for a favour? If you enjoy this newsletter, and if you find it useful, please consider recommending it to a friend who is learning to give technical talks, or who aspires to do so. I meet so many cool programmers who have brilliant things to share with the world—that’s you!

Please help me to improve this newsletter – I’d love to hear your suggestions! You can email me directly at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig. Thank you so much for reading!

A special thanks and shout out to Cora,  for helping to make this newsletter even better!


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