Can You Present Sitting Down?

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Can you present sitting down? Of course, you can present sitting down. You can sit and talk at the same time right. The real question is, “Should you present sitting down?”

If you’re doing a keynote presentation on a stage, it probably doesn’t make sense to sit down. You’re on a stage for a reason, so people can see you. Also, standing (especially on a stage) positions you as the expert. Occasionally, I’ve seen a few presenters sit on the front of the stage to have a casual talk with the audience. Other presenters will sit on a stool if they can’t stand for long periods of time.

Usually sitting presentations are for informal conversations, and potentially sales presentations and bid presentations. When you sit at the same level as your audience, you appear as a peer or team member instead of the expert.

web_offer_banner_2losingYou need to make the call if you want to be seen as a respected expert or an equal — this decision needs to be part of your presentation strategy. (Strategy is the first aspect of my S-I-M-P-L-E successful presentation process because it is vital to a have a great presentation.) If you want the latter (seen as a peer), then sit. That is why the keynote presenter sat on the front of the stage; to be one with the audience instead of coming across as a “higher than thou” preacher.

Making this decision to sit or stand is why you need to know the layout of the room before you get there regardless if you’re presenting to a stadium or just a few people in a small conference room.

If you choose to present sitting down, keep these tips for sitting presentations in mind:

  • Choose Your Seat Wisely – The head of the table is usually seen as the figurehead, so if you’re trying to be a team player, look to sit near the middle of the team or across the table if in a conference room.
  • Lean In – To maintain your energy as a presenter and to encourage engagement with your audience, sit at the edge of your seat and lean in slightly. Leaning back in the chair shows disinterest and a lack of respect. (I suggest sitting at the edge of your seat when presenting webinars as well.)
  • Use Your Arms – A benefit of sitting on the edge of your seat and leaning in is having more room for your arms to move around instead of having them locked on the arms of your chair. Talk with your hands like you normally do when having a conversation. This freedom allows you to remain comfortable and reduces any nervousness you may have giving a presentation.
  • Prepare as Usual – Just because you’re doing a “casual presentation,” doesn’t mean you should prepare and practice like you would a formal presentation. A casual presentation usually means a slightly less formal dress code and more of a conversation than just a one-sided lecture with a slide deck.
  • Expect to Be Interrupted – Sitting down and being seen as a peer, you’re more likely to be interrupted by the audience compared to when you’re seen as an expert if standing. (Again, I don’t usually suggest having a “stop me when you have a question” policy and I regulate questions to multiple Q&A sessions during my presentations.)

So, will you present sitting down or standing up next time?

Additional Resources

How Speak Simple Can Help You

Win more work, increasing your billing rate, and prospects coming to you are all results of being an excellent presenter. Erica Olson created Speak Simple to help technical professionals to become comfortable presenting and excel at each presentation, whether a bid presentation or an educational, content marketing presentation. Learn more about Speak Simple’s flagship program is SpeakU, a self-guided presentation training program.

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