Does Your Venue Help or Hinder Your Keynote Speaker?

They say “the devil is in the details,” but in the world of public speaking, the devil is in the venue. Your venue can impact everything from the keynote speaker’s performance to audience engagement to the overall success of an event.

Because event spaces come in many shapes and sizes—large/small, indoor/outdoor, too dim/too bright, and all kinds of variations in between—here are some tips from keynote speakers on what makes an event space just right.

The great outdoors—great in theory, not in venue

Outdoor venues seem appealing at first glance, but once you begin to plan the logistics the natural elements almost always get in the way. Magician and comedian Bill Herz says, “It’s a no-win situation. You’re battling a million other elements that are fighting for your guests’ attention. The sound, visuals, etc. can never be very good in that setting.” Not to mention the weather never respects your event calendar. Bill recalls, “I spoke at a dinner which was outside, at a pool, next to the ocean. I was fighting the sound of the waves, the wind, planes flying overhead, etc. To top it off, the planner put the stage on one side of the pool and the tables on the other. The audience totally missed out on the fun they could have had.”

Come (sit) together, right now, over me

Even though venue seating may be one of the most important factors of organizing an event, it is often overlooked. Artist and author, Erik Wahl explains that the seating layout is essential to unifying a crowd and creating a great shared experience. “When the room is set in rounds, 70% of the room is filled with large cumbersome wood circles breaking apart the audience experience. It separates the dynamics of how connected the audience is to the presenter,” says Wahl, “but when an audience is seated theatre style with very few open seats the show naturally elevates to higher levels of audience connectivity, interaction, and participation.”

Hold the restaurant venue, please

Another initially appealing venue is a restaurant. However, restaurants are usually designed to create the feeling of small intimate spaces per table, and not accommodate a large cohesive group. It is often hard for the entire audience to get a good view of the speaker at a restaurant venue. Author, clinical psychologist, and change management expert Gary Bradt acknowledges, “I have spoken in some very attractive restaurants, but the lines of sight in restaurants are often bad. I find myself looking around support beams to make eye contact with my audience, or literally walking around corners to see some others, while turning my back on the rest.” Not to mention the hustle and bustle characteristic of all restaurants. Even if you have booked the whole venue just for your event, the wait staff still have to come in to deliver food, refill beverages, and clear the tables of empty plates. In the worst case,” says Bradt, “ I was literally ducking under waiter’s trays as they served coffee and dessert.”

Surprise (jet)setting!

If the setting is unusual, make sure the speaker knows about it in advance so that they can plan accordingly. Author and philosopher Tom Morris recalls, “I once gave a talk on an airplane to 11 company presidents. It was important to know that venue ahead of time so we could have a whiteboard and flip charts when PowerPoint wasn’t available.” Some key A/V aspects of the speaker’s presentation may not be available to them depending on the location of the event. Don’t leave your keynote speaker high and dry at an unusual venue.

The venue really does make the event. And not just for the beauty, ambiance, or notoriety of the space, but for its suitability for the presentation. While a beautiful space does add an element of attraction to an event, do not forget about your keynote speaker’s needs when looking for a venue—After all, the keynote speaker is what the event centers around. Help them to help you make the event engaging for all.


Quotations from the speakers originally appeared in an article found on D’Amelio Network on December 6, 2016.

The content writers at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau are Experts on the Experts. They hold doctoral, masters, and bachelors’ degrees in business, writing, literature, and education. Their business thought pieces are published regularly in leading business publications. Working in close association with the top business, entrepreneur, and motivational speakers, BigSpeak content writers are at the forefront of industry trends and research.