A quadruple whammy

9 04 2011

Every now and again you walk into a venue and it is perfect. Pin-drop quiet, perfect lighting, comfortable seating and great A.V. But more often than not your venue isn’t perfect. Sometimes it is far from it.

If you know the sorts of things that are going to make your job harder then you can plan for them.Last week I found myself in a venue that had nothing going for it and I’ve never had to work so hard in my professional life. It was noisy- other classes were working all around us, it was busy- children carrying registers and adults running errands constantly walked in and out of the performance area, it was cramped- far too many kids were squeezed into too small a space, and it was bright- so bright that the screen was almost invisible behind me.

Being aware of what is going on around you as you present is something that comes with confidence but can be improved with practice. A good presenter isn’t just thinking about what they are saying and doing, isn’t just aware of their audience, but is also able to react and adapt to other events that happen in and around the venue they are working in.

In an ideal world your venue would be like a theatre- pin drop quiet with no one walking in and out. Unfortunately most venues we work in are nothing like theatres…


Children and adults are incredibly easily distracted. If you know there are likely to be distractions- eg: slamming doors or people walking through the room you are in- you can keep your eye out and try to anticipate them. You can then move to be as far away in your stage area as possible from the distraction. You could also make your voice louder or make a bigger gesture to coincide and compete with the distraction.

Background noise

The hum of an air conditioning unit, the drone of a kitchen cooker, chatter from an adjoining classroom or corridor, even road noise is enough to make your life a misery. The noise itself isn’t all that much of a bother but if the kids are clapping, or laughing or cheering and then try to get quiet they will hear this background noise, mistake it for people around them talking, and then begin to talk themselves. Often you won’t notice this noise yourself but when it ends a chatty and restless group will suddenly become silent. I will often point out the background noise and tell the kids that they are going to struggle to get quiet unless they try especially hard to.

Poor lighting

Too little light can be bad as children assume they can’t be seen in the gloom and begin to play up. Too much lighting is worse. Sunlight shining into children’s eyes is incredibly disturbing and sunlight shining onto a projector screen can wipe out a presentation. If you’ve started the show and not made plans for losing the screen or the light panning across the audience then you’ll be in trouble. If you can’t move the screen or audience you can let them know it is going to happen and warn them in advance. I often tell children that the sun might be in their eyes but that the sun moves so all they need to do is to sit still, shade their eyes and it will be in someone else’s in 5 minutes. If you know the presentation is going to be washed out you can choose to not use it at all or anticipate when to turn it off.

Over-packed audience touching each other

Children and adults fidget. It has to be a very good film for me not to move around in my seat. If I was sitting on the floor I’d be even worse. Make sure that your audience isn’t so close together that they can’t move without disturbing someone else. When getting children to sit on the floor ensure they have enough room to get their knees on the floor as they sit cross-legged. When sitting on chairs make sure there is enough room to the sides and in front and behind that they are not disturbing each other. You will find that a challenging group will transform if you take a couple of rows of seats and a couple of seats out of each row. Spaced out all of a sudden they will sit nicely and not mess about but packed in the same group would be a nightmare.




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