25 Sep How should you stand when presenting?

Most presenters are at their most ‘nervous’ at the start and finish of their presentation, and also in the body of their presentation when situations of conflict or discomfort arise.  It’s during these times that I recommend you consider standing in what is called the Natural Stance.

It’s called the Natural Stance because it’s how we learnt to stand when we were little – it was the natural way for us to stand when we were first learning to hold up our own body before learning to walk.  We all once stood naturally in the natural stance.  Interestingly though there is some research that suggests that in western society we are attracted to patterns of asymmetry. So, although most of us stood in the natural stance when we were little, when we hit adolescence, we mostly un-learnt the Natural Stance in favour of more asymmetrical postures.

Why is the Natural Stance effective?

Standing symmetrically assists in diaphragmatic rather than chest breath.  The Natural Stance will also help you feel solid and more confident as you stand to address your audience. In addition, the natural stance is the foundation for executive presence, it makes you look like you’re owning it.

How do you do the natural stance?

It’s a really simple stance to master.  Here’s what you do:

  1. Place your feet under the bones of your hips.
  2. Ensure your weight is fully over both of your feet.
  3. Slightly relax your knees.
  4. Brace your core – your deep down tummy muscles.
  5. Relax your shoulders (this is very important so you don’t look or feel stiff).
  6. Ensure your head is to the front.

Can I stand in other ways too?

Yes, the natural stance is for the times when you need to look and feel strong and unflustered!  At other times in your presentation you will choose to stand in a whole variety of other body postures that reinforce your message.  For example, sometimes you will choose to lean because want to come across as more casual and approachable. The point is: you need to do what’s necessary to maximise the chance you will influence your audience.

Is there stance I should not do as a presenter?

Ha ha!  Yes!

There are three main postures to avoid.

  1. The Fig Leaf or Crotch Clutch position is where you stand with your hands covering your crotch. I commonly notice that people pose for photos like this! Ha! This is not a good choice because it makes everyone look at the one part of your body you’d probably rather they didn’t! I’ll say no more!
  2. Men should not stand with the feet too far apart. When the feet are too wide there is a tendency to thrust the pelvis forwards. This is not nice for your audience!
  3. Women should not cross the legs. Crossing the legs is a seductive posture that draws the eyes of your audience down to where the legs cross over and away from connected eye contact.
  4. I’m also not a fan of the steeple posture where you hold your hands in front of your body with the fingertips touching like a character from The Simpsons. It’s commonly taught in presentation skills courses (not mine) but don’t do it!  It’s contrived and creepy!
  5. And clasping your hands in front of your body is another one to avoid. Otherwise known as the ‘collapsed prayer’, it’s a protective posture across your heart and lungs and looks either like you don’t know what to do with your hands, or you are nervous. Hands gesturing naturally, or down by your sides will look way better and be less distracting for your audience.

The next time you are asked to stand and address a crowd – think about your body and allow yourself to use your body to reinforce your message.