How to Control the Room

 Some audiences are just too happy to disrupt the fine presentation you’ve spent hours working on.


[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hile there may be many reasons for this, not least a boring presentation, however here’s some awesome ways to put a stop to it once and forever. One of the problems I find is that people don’t own the room that they’re in when they present. They give the power to the audience; this creates a problem in terms of some audience members trying to wrest control and turning the presentation on them.

Controlling the audience responses and not letting the audience control you.

Imagine it like this. I’m sorry to say, but a presentation room is little different than a school room and a teacher, only people are older and less responsible! ?

There are always going to be different personalities with different needs and different ways of expressing themselves.

You get the quite ones, you get the loud one, you get the jokers and you get the people pleasing ones and as a presenter not only do you have to present, but sometimes you have to be teacher / councillor / parent. If not, then your presentation may take a turn in a direction you least expected it.

The Story Teller

Let me give you an example – a good one, though it required quite a bit of work to turn it around.

I was training at the RAF a leadership programme. In the room was a very senior and seasoned airman ready to retire. He’d fought in the Iraqi wars, both of them, Afghanistan, the Balkans and toured the world. He was from the parachute regiment and taught people how to HALO jump (high altitude low opening).

As you can imagine, he’d been around and seen a few things and with this he just happened to be a charismatic and compelling storyteller.

On this day, I’d walked in to find everyone huddled around him like scouts round a campfire listening intently to one of his stories. The only thing that was missing were marshmallows on sticks and the hum of Coombia.

Not wanting to interrupt or break the story I let it finish. Which I think was only appropriate.

However no sooner had he finished when he jumped into the next story.

I knew that if I just let this run even with me subtly (then not so subtly) standing and moving towards the front to begin, they would have quite easily let him carry on until goodness only knows when. And the following are some of the techniques I used to prevent this happening again.

Pyschological Tactics to Control the Room

It’s all about controlling the room (not being domineering) rather being in control of what happens in the room.

But to do it you must take charge of what people do. This is a psychological technique, this isn’t about who’s dominating whom, it’s linked to the same thing that your parents did you as a child, they took care of your coat on and off, taking your shoes off, helping you get dressed and being fed etc. What you’re doing is ‘re-associating’ these types of deep and old anchors, but in a way that’s also respectful and rapportful.

We liked to be looked after – so make use of this and take that extra little stress away from your audience. So…

  • Take their hats and coats and hang them up if there’s a coat hanger
  • Designate seats for people with name cards
  • Direct people to their seat when they arrive
  • Hand out hand outs personally, don’t give them to one person to pass them around
  • Hand out paper and pencil – (you’d be surprised how many people will use them to scribble on, doodle etc instead of pulling out their phone – it also re-associates that ‘school’ time)
  • Pour them a drink of water and hand it to them.

You don’t have to do this yourself if you have people who prep and assist the room for you, as their assistance is an implied level of authority to you as a presenter.

What other ways do you use to control the room that work?