Always stand in front of your slides

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When you give a presentation, you will usually be standing in front of your slides, facing the audience. This is the standard setup for lecture rooms and there's simply no other way for you to do it, given the layout of the room.

Things are different with your typical meeting room, especially small ones. They are often equipped with a table in the middle of the room, around which the audience is assembling. The slides are then projected against one of the walls and often there's not a lot of room between the table and the wall for the speaker to stand in. I've seen such setups in meeting rooms at companies but also for user group meet-ups.

What I've noticed is that, given such a setup, some speakers tend to position themselves opposite the slides, on the other end of the room. The obvious advantage for them is that they can easily see their slides without having to look down at their laptop (or turn around).

What these speakers fail to realise is that this setup is less than ideal for their audience, since they now have to look back and forth between the slides and the speaker. You end up feeling like you're watching a tennis match - the heads of the audience going left-right, left-right, ... Or they will have to shift in their seats a lot, which can be an additional source of distraction.

While the classic layout, with the speaker standing in front of the audience, has its own set of problems, it's still the setup that works best since most of the communication is between the speaker and the audience (hopefully not a one-way conversation). The slides are there to support the talk, so they should also be visible to the audience at the same time.

So what can you do? In many cases, the table is not strictly needed. So the best solution would be to get rid of it. See if you can move it out of the room or at least to the side or the back. When this is not possible then, assuming the table can be moved at all, try and move it at least to the extend that you have enough room to stand in front of your slides.

If the table can not be moved, see if the projector can be moved so that the slides are projected onto one of the other walls; maybe that'll give you some space. If all else fails, try to stand in a place somewhere near the slides, maybe in a corner of the room. It may not be the most convenient spot for you, but it's still better to inconvenience only one person (the speaker) than to inconvenience many (the audience).

Also, don't forget to mention all this to the person responsible for the room. They may not even be aware that there is a problem with the layout of the room. It won't help you this time, but may improve the situation for the future (and future speakers).


"The audience comes first." This mantra does not only apply to the content of your presentation but also to the act of presenting. Identify and remove any physical obstacles and make it easy for your audience to follow you and your talk.

(Photo: IXS_2112 by Leon Brocard, from Flickr)

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Creative Commons Licence "Always stand in front of your slides" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.