PSU Insight

Preparation is the Key

Venue Checklist

To help ensure that your presentation is a success, you need to be thoroughly familiar with your speaking environment before you utter your first word. A great way to do this is with a venue checklist.

The late, great Ray Pelletier made it a point to “own the room” in the hours before he began to speak. He examined his room beforehand from every angle, he visualized his audience listening to him, and he imagined how he would appear to his audience. He worked through his program in his mind while he observed his physical surroundings.

In that same way, you should become familiar with your speaking environment as far in advance as possible. The more time you have to study your speaking environment, the easier it will be to correct any problems you may discover.

You need to create your own onsite checklist that is appropriate to your presentation needs. The questions on your checklist should either indicate information that you need to know (or find out), or activities that you need to perform.

Your personal checklist will be composed of questions like —

  • Is the room set up as you requested?

  • What is the seating ratio? (For comfortable classroom seating, there should be two people per six foot table or three people per eight foot table.)

  • Are requested staging items and props in their place?

  • Are all ashtrays removed from the meeting room?

  • Is the room set at a comfortable temperature (around 70 degrees)?

  • Where is the temperature control? Can you work it, or must you call a service person? How do you reach them?

  • How quickly will maintenance respond to your needs? How quickly will the temperature of the room adjust to changing the thermostat?

  • If you need to evacuate the room, where are the room exits? What is the quickest route for your audience to leave the building?

  • Where can signs and posters be placed? How should you mount them? Are all signs and posters secure?

  • Has all the A/V equipment you requested arrived? Is it set up? Has it been tested?

  • Who is the A/V technician supporting your program? How do you locate him/her if you have a problem?

  • Has your microphone been tested? Is the volume at the correct level? Have you checked all the areas from where you will be speaking for feedback?

  • Is there a backup microphone? Has it been tested?

  • If you’re recording your program, has the audience been “miked” so their audible responses (applause, laughter, and questions) will be picked up?

  • Has the house music been disabled?

  • How is the room lighting controlled? Will it be changed during your program? If so, do you have someone to change it and do they know how (and when) to change it?

  • Are there any areas of inadequate lighting within your speaking area? Can they be fixed?

  • If someone else is controlling your A/V, do they understand what you want and when you want it?

  • Are you controlling your own A/V? If so, have you taped over the buttons on the remote control that you won’t be using?

  • Are all batteries fresh? Are all light bulbs new?

  • Can the attendees see the stage and/or screen from all areas of the room?

  • Will any distractions (clock, window, door, etc.) be visible behind you once you start your program?

  • Have you marked (with masking tape) the edge of the stairs and the stage to avoid missteps?

  • Have you taped down (with duct tape) all wires in your speaking area?

  • Have you checked your schedule with the meeting planner? If you’re unable to start on time, should you cut your presentation short and finish on time? Or should you speak for the entire length of time that was requested, even though it may throw the meeting behind?

  • How will you know how you’re doing on time? If you have people timing you, where will they be seated? What signals will they use? Is the clock (or calendar, if you’re long-winded) easily visible?

  • Have you taped (with duct tape) the latches on the ballroom doors so they can be opened and closed silently? Have you posted signs on the outside (and inside, if necessary) of the doors to control people’s movements?

  • Have the back rows been roped (or taped off) to encourage people to sit toward the front?

  • Have you taped the agenda onto the lectern so you can find it easily?

  • Is the ringer on the ballroom phone turned off?

  • Are there markers for the flip chart or dry-erase board? Are they fresh? Is there an eraser for the dry-erase board?

  • What are the hours of the hotel’s business center?

  • What is the closest copying / business center outside the hotel? What are its hours?

  • When are handouts to be distributed? By whom? Do you have sufficient handouts for everyone?

  • If you’re using someone else’s computer, are you familiar with its operation? If someone else is controlling your computer, are they familiar with its operation? Is there someone present who can solve a computer problem (by rebooting, for example) while you continue your presentation?

That’s a lot of things to be concerned about, and they probably don’t all apply to you or your program. But creating your own checklist and making sure that everything on the checklist is done beforehand will significantly increase the likelihood of your program’s success.