Do you ever feel a bit awkward or uncomfortable when you are on stage but not actively speaking?
With years of practice, I am now reasonably comfortable during my presentations. When not moving to a new position, I keep my feet parallel, firmly planted, and shoulder width apart. In the intermittent periods when I am not gesturing, I do one of two things with my arms. In a casual settings, I allow my arms to rest comfortably at my sides. When I need to be more authoritative, I hold my hands in a steeple position at navel level with my finger tips gently touching.
The casual position and the authoritative position are fine and dandy for brief moments. However, they both look and feel strange if assumed beyond the 10 second mark. That tends to happen at the beginning and at the end of your public speaking performance – when you are being introduced or when you are listening to questions from the audience during Q&A.
This week, I had the great fortune to receive personal coaching from Richard Butterfield at a leadership development retreat. When I took the stage in my casual base position described above, Mr. Butterfield sized me up and said “Do you know that you have assumed an aggressive posture?”. I responded “How so?” Richard explained that the feet square-arms down base position in combination with my height made me look like a linebacker ready to pounce.
He proceeded to make a subtle adjustment that I immediately recognized as comfortable, casual, and invaluable. I’ll call it the model position – you will see why in a minute.
Step 1: Start in the casual position with your feet parallel and shoulder width apart. Let your arms rest freely at your sides.
Step 2: Bring your right foot forward just a bit so that your feet are still parallel, but your left toes are parallel with the front of the arch of your right foot.
Step 3: Keeping your right heel in place, pivot the front of your right foot outward at a comfortable angle – about thirty degrees.
Step 4: Rest your weight on your left (back) leg. This will probably cause your front (right) knee to bend a little.
Step 5: Place your left hand in your pocket with your thumb showing. You right arm will naturally move an inch or two forward. (You may want to test the opposite with your right hand in your pocket to see what is more comfortable).
Try It Out!
Don’t just read the steps, stand up and get into position. When you do, you will feel as though you a posing the way a model does. Hence, the “model position.” It is relaxed and casual and will simultaneously make you appear confident and approachable.