Further to last time’s post about owning the space, let’s take it a stage further and talk about what to do when the space in which you’re going to be speaking is awkward and restrictive.
If you’ve been asked to speak, it’s reasonable to assume people are interested to hear what you’ve got to say. It’s your responsibility to deliver your talk in the most effective way possible and this includes clearing away before you start any potential obstacles and distractions that may impair the audience’s understanding and enjoyment. The fact that you’ve been asked to speak gives you the authority to do this, to adapt the space to suit your needs. Ideally you would do this before the audience arrives but, if circumstances don’t allow that, take the time to do it before you start to speak.
For example, if you’re following another speaker and you find the microphone is at the wrong height and angle for you, don’t bend your knees or stand on tiptoe: move the microphone until it’s right for you. If the sun is in your eyes, don’t squint through it or hold up your hand against it: either move or ask someone to close a curtain. If you’re going to be using props and want somewhere to put them down, don’t use the floor: arrange for a lightweight table to be on hand for you to use – if the other speakers don’t want it on the stage, you can take it up with you (or get someone else to) when the time comes.
Anything like this that makes your job harder is dissipating energy and focus that you need for your performance. And if something is distracting for you, it’s going to be distracting for the audience as well – you know from watching other people’s speeches and presentations how witnessing this kind of awkwardness makes it very difficult to concentrate on the content. What you want the audience to remember is your message, not the fact that you couldn’t reach the microphone, couldn’t see them properly or spent half the time scrabbling around on the floor.