How to Set Up Your Training Room for Best Results

My number one requirement is a room with windows. So many hotels and venues offer rooms with no natural light, which is far from ideal. Natural light feels better, allows the possibility of air, a view, a feeling of space and life even.

I also want to ensure that the delegates have their backs to the windows, facing forward, with me looking toward them, and therefore the window. Natural light on the speaker at the front of the room looks good, and delegates are less likely to be distracted by events outside the window. I also (and people are convinced I am joking when I tell them this) am able to glance out of the window myself as I, for example, wait for delegates to answer questions. That wait for many speakers can feel really awkward sometimes, so the ability to calm oneself and watch life continue can really help. And if you are thinking that natural light shining on your speaking area will mess with your PowerPoint slides.. Come on! Get with the programme! It’s 2011- why are you still using those. Seriously… Do you know how many times in my Presentation Skills sessions I have asked my delegates who actually likes using, writing or attending PPT based session… The answer is one or two at best. No one likes it… Stop worrying about the slides and focus on what you’re doing and saying.

You might have been asked when arranging your venue about teas and coffees and breaks and so on. I always want a longer morning than afternoon. I don’t like any session to go more than two hours without a break of some sort, and ninety minutes is better. I also don’t like those places that want to serve teas and coffees and lunches at a specific time. I want to be able to alter these times if it suits me or the delegates. And I certainly don’t want the tea lady coming into the room with her inevitably squeaking trolley of rattling cups and glasses. Not only is it incredibly distracting anyway, the moment refreshments arrive delegates start thinking of what they want, and start lose focus. My ideal is to have the refreshments stationed outside the main training room so we can break when we want and get our caffeine fix. Also when you break your delegates, always tell them the time you would like them to return, rather than how long they have. Believe me, once you are talking about a break people’s attention on you and what you are saying is minimal. Do everyone and yourself a favour, and make return times as easy as possible.

Give yourself space to speak and move at the front of the room. You are the speaker or the trainer, and it is you most people want to see and hear – not your slides, with you wedged somewhere into a corner somewhere. Set the furniture to suit you and your delegates. Take furniture out if necessary. And remove tables between you and your delegates. Unless you like the feeling of an over formalised job interview from the seventies, in which case go with it. I don’t know why, but every hotel and venue I attend has a default set-up of a table at the front of the room, with a couple of name tags, some mints in a jar, more fizzy water than still, and some too thin notepads with the company logo on. Unless you plan to sit behind this, maybe get rid of the table and focus on interacting with your audience. Likewise, unless it’s a big audience… Say a couple of hundred or more, I don’t really want people sat behind desks, and if they have to I want to look at cabaret set up… More informal and comfortable. People can work together and you can still work with them, rather than feeling like us versus them.

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Temperature. Less than you might think. In the morning turn it down a little. It may feel a little too cool, but when people come in, and start to get involved in all the activities you have planned for them, it’ll soon warm up. I agree we don’t want people shivering, and I know that people who are a little chilly can put something on. Warm people can’t often take things off, and that leads to dozing in your session. Never good for confidence.

Here is a quick win. Move the clock away from behind you, and behind your audiences head, ensuring it is directly in your line of sight. I hope the reason for this is so fantastically obvious you will “get it” immediately. If not, look me up, you need help!

If you use flip charts, and maybe ask your delegates to create any work on large pieces of paper, please invest in some bright coloured marker pens. Along with that stupid desk arrangement I mentioned above, venues have a habit of supplying four pens at best, a faded black, a dried out red, a good green and a leaking blue. Don’t use these, they are rubbish. Get some bright funky colours and live a little. You would be surprised how often a purple or a scarlet gets grown adults excited! Whilst you are getting your lovely bright pens out in the morning, check the paper on the flips. You will often find notes from the previous session, and one or two tatty bits left for you. Sort it out before everyone arrives.

Finally, you are going to need some music for your session… When people arrive, leave, to tag break starts and finishes, for certain activities or discussions and so on. Tell the venue you will be playing music. This avoids any awkwardness like the trainer from the room next door separated only by a sliding divider coming in to complain that his meeting of senior cheeses next door doesn’t appreciate your musical tastes at those volumes, which rather takes the shine off what you’re trying to achieve.

Give these suggestions a go when you can. They are pretty much part of our standard operating processes because frankly they work really well, make things easier for me and allow us to concentrate on our delegates. Good luck with your training.

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