Wednesday, July 02, 2008

How to organize the room

I was working at a conference last week, putting together a daily newsletter of what was going on.

The concept was a good one. Each night, we'd put the issue together, featuring highlights of the day's events and profiles on what was happening the next day, as well as helpful tips about conference stuff, where things were happening, etc.

Once we had things written and approved, we added pictures from the day, then shipped it off to the printer. It was delivered to the hotel around midnight, then a copy was slid under each delegate's door so they'd have it when they woke up. It was a fun project and well received.

So when I came across this post from Seth Godin, I had some recent context to process it with. And, as usual, his advice about how to physically control the room for a presentation, whether at a meeting or a conference, is based on common sense and his own experience. But no matter how practical the idea, I'm always amazed how often people don't think about stuff like this.

Here's an excerpt:
"What does this remind me of?"

That's the subliminal question that people ask themselves as soon as they walk into a room. If it reminds us of a high school cafeteria, we know how to act. If it's a bunch of round tables set for a chicken dinner, we know how to act. And if there are row upon row of hotel-type chairs in straight lines, we know how to sit and act glazed.

If it's a place where we're used to saying 'no', we're likely to say no. If it's a place where we're used to good news or important news or just paying attention, we'll do that.
You can use this Pavlovian reaction to your advantage, or you can be a victim of it. A non-traditional arrangement can make people sit up and take notice. A rock concert feel is going to raise the energy level of even the skeptics. A circle with no tables makes people feel naked. These are tools, and you get to choose.

If you have to serve lunch, serve lunch. Big round tables, lots of talking. Then have people stand up and go hear the speaker. In a different room, with a different setting, one that works. No one ever heard a speech that changed their lives when sitting around a round table having just eaten a lousy lunch. Mixing the settings serves no purpose, wastes time in the long run and saves very little money.

Do you see that this is just more marketing? You tell a story with where you put the chairs.
Here's the link to the story.

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