Where You Stand Makes A Difference

by Stephen Boyd | October 31, 2005

You usually think of choreography as part of a play or dance or television production. But a kind of choreography is an important factor in an effective presentation: where and how you stand.

When beginning a speech, stand to the center of the room where you are generally an equal distance from all members of the audience. If you start by standing to the side or down the center aisle, some listeners will feel left out visually; those you are standing close to may be uncomfortable. Certainly feel free to move in any direction after the beginning of the speech as long as you come back to the centered position you started with.

If you are using the screen at the front of the room for Power Point or slides, stand to the audience’s left. This makes it easier for the audience to read and follow because we read from left to right. Stand facing the audience—not sideways—since you want to keep facing the audience even though they are reading from the screen. Don’t break eye contact with the audience unless it is necessary to check the focus or readability of the content.

Be conscious of your posture. Stand erect with feet seven to twelve inches apart depending on your height; the taller you are the wider the distance. Stand with the weight of your body equally distributed on the balls of your feet. If your weight is on one foot or on a heel, your slouching or uneven posture may keep you from looking confident and in control. When your weight is equally balanced on the balls of your feet, you are in a position to easily take a step for emphasis.

Stand at least three to four feet from the closest audience member. As mentioned earlier in this article, standing too close to people in the audience makes them uncomfortable. They will want to move away, or at the least they will be distracted by thinking that you should move back. Either way this can affect their attention to your content. If you do move into the audience, don’t stay there long to avoid creating long periods of uneasiness for some in the audience.

Finally, make it a point to stand away from the lectern occasionally. If you stand behind the lectern throughout the speech, you may be seen as not caring for the specific audience and may seem a bit aloof as well. Let the audience get a good look at you by taking a step away from the lectern to emphasize a key point. If you tend to get stuck behind the lectern, make a notation in your speech notes to move to the side.

Stand front and center, stand erect, stand to the left of the screen, and stand away from the lectern. Where you stand does make a difference!

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at http://www.sboyd.com. To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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