Technical standards and technical equipment

Over a coffee with the fabulous Geoff Ramm (Marketing Speaker) and currently the president of the Professional Speaking Association, I got to thinking about the ways in which speakers and presenters use their equipment.

And I wasn’t always impressed.

techYou see, my staff and I all have theatre backgrounds, working as technicians and dealing with impossible requests from directors and choreographers. Not only do they tend to want the impossible, they want it to a timetable and a budget.

And they get it.


Because as a general rule, theatre techs are damned good at their jobs (and deserve more money and shorter hours – trust me on this!)

I’ve seen far too many speakers just turn up and think all they need to do is talk. But from the audience’s point of view, nothing undermines your credibility so quickly as seeing you flounder with your technology. Surely that’s obvious? No?

Well what about some less obvious ways in which a bit of  ‘theatre magic’ could help professional presenters…

I went to an event recently where there were some top notch presenters and between sessions there was coffee, cake and – inevitably – background music. Setting aside the choice of hyper-hyper-hyper-designed-to-force-the-atmosphere-music, the problem was this: if you want to have the music loud enough to be decent background music at the back of the room, where the coffee is (and where your audience will inevitably congregate), who on earth puts the loudspeakers only at the front of the room?

To get it loud enough at the back, it was painful at the front of the room.

Or what about the (radical) idea of having just a spotlight on a speaker instead of a general wash?  But while it might be radical for speakers it happens in theatres all the time.

Actors hit their marks and technicians make the lighting happen for them. Simple. So why don’t experienced presenters step up and use the additional tools that are available to them? Why isn’t this kind of technical professionalism as standard?  What’s stopping the very best speakers from having that kind of technical ‘magic’ built into their presentations?!

Is it because using ‘tricks’ like this might be seen as pretentious? Is it because we professional speakers don’t feel we need ‘gimmicks’?  Is it because we don’t know what we don’t know, so to speak, and it simply  doesn’t occur to try the experiment?

Is it because we think the kit is too expensive?  Too big to carry? Too fussy to set up?

Okay, it’s not for everyone, nor for every venue or every audience… but what’s to stop us thinking a bit bigger than presenters often do?

Simon is one of the UK's most highly regarded presentation skills trainers and professional speakers in the fields of presenting, confidence and emotional resilience.