On Your Seat! 5 tips for when you give presentations sitting down

It is natural to stand when giving a presentation – it helps us to feel confident, more in control and gives us an air of authority.  We can see the audience clearly thereby gauging their reactions easily, and we can move around during the presentation if we feel comfortable doing so.

So, why would we choose to present sitting down?

Sometimes it’s just not practical to stand up to present, due to the room size, the audience size, or other restrictions.  The situation with Covid-19 has meant a large number of people, both here and abroad, have been ordered to work from home.  This may have thrown a lot of people in at the deep end when it comes to using a different form of communication e.g. video calls, giving presentations online, virtual team meetings etc.

One thing that does stay the same, regardless of whether you are sitting, or standing is preparation!  You need to know who you are presenting to, why they need to hear your message, and how your presentation needs to be structured.

Once you are happy with your preparation, you can move on to the few key areas that you need to consider when presenting while seated, which differ from a standing presentation.  We’ve listed below our top 5 tips to help you present your next virtual presentation, video call or team meeting more confidently.

 

1. Posture

Just as you would when standing, you need to ensure your posture is good.  This will help you give the air of confidence.  Keep your back straight, shoulders back and your feet flat on the floor.

Try not to slouch – one way to make this easier is to sit at the edge of your chair.  Not only will this help you maintain your upright position, but it also conveys a level of engagement with your audience.  When we have something exciting to share, we naturally lean forward into the people we’re communicating with, so by sitting upright at the edge of your seat gives the impression you have something exciting to tell your audience!

This technique works for when we are sitting around a table presenting to people in the same room, as well as in front of a camera if we were presenting online.

 

2. Eye contact

We all know that maintaining regular eye contact with your audience helps to build rapport, it conveys that you are honest and approachable.

However, there are a couple of ways to do this depending on the type of setting you are presenting in.  For example, if you are seated at a table with others, you can make eye contact with each one briefly to connect with them all.  Also, if you are responding to a specific person at the table, you can look directly at them when beginning your reply, and then look at everyone else to include them in your response.

When you are giving a virtual presentation, e.g. to the webcam with your audience in a different location to you, eye contact can be a bit trickier.  The key is to know where your webcam is located and look directly into it.  We have seen a lot of people look at the actual person they are talking to on screen and if your webcam is positioned at the top of the screen, you are not actually making eye contact with them.  By looking directly at your camera, the person at the other end will feel you are looking straight at them.

 

3. Gestures

Gesturing is an area a lot of people struggle with, whether standing or seated, as it just doesn’t feel natural to them.

We recommend any gestures when standing should be done above waist level – the same applies for if you are seated at a table with your audience (e.g. in a team meeting etc).  Keep your hand gestures above the table.  Try not to use over-exaggerated gestures – remember to be yourself and use natural movements as you would when having an everyday conversation.

If you are presenting virtually, on a webcam, the audience will only usually see your head & shoulders, therefore they won’t see your gestures.  However, we recommend you still do them as most people naturally talk with their hands so even though the hands won’t be seen, the audience will be able to tell you are moving and you will come across as being genuine and authentic.

One thing to avoid though is putting your hands in front of your face or waving them near to the camera – you wouldn’t naturally do this when standing in front of someone so don’t do it when seated either!

 

4. Vocal

When seated, the people around a table often find it harder to keep their attention on the person who’s talking.  Don’t speak in a monotone voice otherwise they will soon be asleep!  Vary your pitch, emphasise key words as you would if writing them down, and be enthusiastic!  Add OOMPH to your voice!  It’s up to you to keep your audience engaged and focused on you.  Also make sure you speak clearly – people at the other end of the table may not hear you properly.

When speaking to a webcam, speak loudly and clear enough for your audience to hear you.  Remember they might have other noises going on around them in the background – they can easily adjust their volume control if you come across too loud.

Use short punchy sentences.  Not long rambling ones.  Use punctuation when you speak i.e. avoid joining sentences together with “and”.  It should be a full stop so use it to pause between sentences – this will also add impact to what you are saying.

If anyone in your audience happens to lose visual connection, the chances are their audio is still working.  Ensure you vary your vocal tone, pitch and pace so they can visualise what you are saying.  Put some emotion into your words, if you feel passionate about your topic then be passionate and enthusiastic.

 

5. Facial expressions

Whether you are sitting down presenting to people around a table, or talking to an audience via webcam, your facial expressions are vital in your communication.  The audience rely on them to reinforce the meaning of what you are saying.  This is why being congruent is so important.  If you are speaking about a happy occasion, don’t sit there with a frown on your face!

Remember your movements are limited when seated, so for example, if you are trying to convey excitement, it would be difficult to show this by jumping up & down!  You would need to express this in a different way… widening your eyes, smiling broadly, speaking slighter quicker with a higher pitch all gives the feeling of excitement to your audience, and keeps them engaged.

 

Sitting down may not feel like a natural way of presenting, however following the above tips will help you be more confident when giving your next seated presentation.

If you would like to find out more about our upcoming live online programmes, click here for details of our open Virtual Presentation Skills masterclass.