Section 1.4

Sitting Versus Standing During a Presentation

Many situations will call for you to be seated rather than standing when you are presenting your ideas. Sitting with your listeners can convey a sense of equality and intimacy that standing might not. Sitting can also help put your listeners at ease and contribute to a casual, relaxed tone.

But sitters beware! Although it has its advantages, sitting can imperil your presentation by introducing a variety of hazards that are absent when you are standing. For example, leaning back in your chair may weaken your connection with listeners by signaling a lack of urgency or interest. Leaning on the table in front of you can affect your posture by rounding your shoulders and can send your focus downward instead of out toward your audience. Take care to maintain a strong physical presence, even when the furniture around you would have you slouch.

In addition, objects on a table often become tempting playthings; you may find yourself tapping a pen or fiddling with a water bottle, distracting your listeners while you speak. A watch, bracelet, or ring can become a percussive distraction as it hits the table.

Furthermore, sitting limits your range of movement, especially when you have little room to maneuver. If seated at a table, try backing your chair away a few inches to give your upper body some space to move.

Backing away from the table a bit can also facilitate eye contact with people seated on either side of you. It can be a challenge to look at every person around a table when all of you are seated — do it anyway. Make the effort, turning your head as needed, to specifically include each of your listeners. Choosing a seat with good sightlines, perhaps at the head of the table, makes this task easier. See the next chapter for more about eye contact.

Finally, don’t let your voice sag when you sit. Chapter 3 covers the importance of a strong voice.

You won’t always be able to choose whether to sit or stand. However, if you can stand, you may be able to convey more authority, avoid many potential presentation pitfalls, and make it easier for your listeners to focus on you and your ideas.