Lines of sight

14 06 2013

This is a quick rant plea to event organisers to consider the sightlines for their audiences.

Just because a venue is rated to hold x doesn’t mean x people can comfortably sit and watch an interactive show in it.

Beyond five rows back this is the view people get:



Can you see the presenter? He’s there. Hidden behind the lectern.

Can you see the child volunteering at the front? No, neither can anyone more than five rows back.

Can you see the table top where all his experiments have been placed? Fat chance.

If your venue is flat (ie: there is no rake to the seats or a raised stage) and you have booked an interactive show don’t expect to fill the venue with more than 5 rows of seats. And if that means that half, or three quarters, or most of your room is empty then so be it.

If you want more people in then go and find a stage for your venue or better still, go and find a new venue.




2 responses

3 06 2014
David Hall

Great points. I love this topic and it’s incredibly important. Some simple layout changes can have a huge impact on the quality and impact of so many shows and presentations.

If at all possible, I usually request a wide shallow audience – with my back to the wide wall if it’s a rectangular space. This means that the back row is never far from the front. I have to work to ensure that I’m engaging each side of the audience, of course, but this is much easier than trying to simultaneously engage people very close to me as well as far distant. With a narrow, long audience, it’s impossible to speak to the front rows without losing the back rows and vice-versa. Plus it’s much easier (and safer and better) for the voice. Far better all round in fact. (It usually astounds me why halls are so often deigned in this long, narrow way.) A wide, shallow audience not only enables a much higher proportion of the audience to be engaged (to see and hear better too), it also makes my job far easier, safer and much more effective – and helps me keep control. Win-win all the way really..!

Other great design puzzles include the mounting of descendable projection screens – again usually far distant from the back row at the narrow end of a rectangular hall. Why not put them against the wide wall so that everyone can get a little closer? And – why is it that so many are positioned so close to the front of an existing stage that it’s impossible to stand in front of them unless you’re happy teetering on the narrow precipice of a raised stage. Drop them back a few feet and there’ll be room for a great picture AND a great presenter..!

Finally: chairs – it still astounds me that some schools find it quite hard to understand the concept (and benefits) of curved rows of chairs..! If possible, I always advise them to angle the chairs so that they’re all pointing towards the centre of the playing space – particularly if I’m playing against the long wall, as above. Even with narrow audiences this can be a problem. How they can expect someone to concentrate, focus on or get the most from a show when they’re actually pointing towards an empty wall and all the action is taking place off to one side of them.?! (Nobody wants a crick in the neck!) And yet many places still insist on regimented straight lines – even when there are no chairs for the pupils..! Angling the audience towards the centre of the playing space makes a gigantic difference for everyone: performers and audience alike. Simple but what a massive impact!

Ideally, of course the audience and the stage will be raked, but if that’s not possible, with a little thought and flexibility you really can enhance everyone’s experiences.

Thanks for raising this excellent point!

3 06 2014

And thanks for your excellent comments. J

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