Different types of presentations obviously have different requirements. The majority of presentations go better when they are delivered standing up, but there are presentations that require a presenter to sit or would be received better if the presenter were seated, such as a webinar. There are benefits and drawbacks to sitting, but if the need for a sitting presentation arises, here are some great tips:
1) Know Your Situation– Choose your seat wisely because where you sit can subtly effect your effectiveness. A seated presenter is generally seen by the audience as an equal or part of the team, not the leader of the team. Different situations require different strategies when it comes to sitting presentations. For example, a client update would be weird if the client were sitting and you were towering above them. The head of the table is generally viewed as the figurehead while sitting in the middle of a table reinforces the team member.
2) Body Language– Even when you’re seated, body language can support your message or it can be a distraction. Keep your arms in an open position and not crossed in front of you. Hand gestures shouldn’t be too dramatic, but you can still use them to emphasize your words. Keep your face relaxed and make sure your expressions support your words. Lean in to show emphasis. Focus on your listener as much as you would like them to be engaged when you are speaking.
3) Posture– Americans are widely known for bad posture and if you haven’t noticed bad posture is even more obvious while sitting. It is habit and second nature to slouch and lean on the table, these habits are not benefiting your appearance and say nothing for your professionalism. Be extra sure while sitting that the spine is straight and shoulder blades are pinched from the back while hands sit gently in lap.
4) Lean Forward – If you’re uncomfortable sitting during the presentation, sit on the edge of your seat and lean forward some. This will make it feel like you are standing and keep the focus on you. It will also help you keep your energy up.
5) Vocals– Since you are sitting at a conference table it is likely that you are in a small room where projecting your voice isn’t necessary. This is another reason why a presenter should know a room before entering to present, having this information prior would give experience about echo and any other compromises you will need to make to be heard. Make sure your pitch and tone of voice are appropriate, not forceful and not too delicate.
6) Converse– In past blog posts, I mention that presentations are just conversations, seated presentations are the closest thing to that conversation a presentation can get. Treat the listeners as part of your team, involve them by asking questions or answering questions. Small audiences are significantly easier to physically involve with survey questions. Be as friendly as you would normally be during a conversation with a friend.
7) Be Flexible– It is especially easy for small rooms with small audiences to go off track. When in small groups surrounded around a conference table, listeners are more bold to raise hands during or interrupt the presentation for questions which may lead to other questions derailing the presentation. Going into sitting presentations be aware of how easy it is to get off track and consider antidotes on how to overcome those distractions.
8) It’s Still a Presentation- A seated presentation is still another presentation and the steps for planning and developing a successful presentation are still the same. It takes time to develop a presentation and maybe even more time to consider how the sitting strategy fits into the overall effectiveness.
Just like other presentations, you still need to practice, but make sure you practice a seated presentation sitting down.