Presentation skills should be flexible and applicable to a wide range of situations. If you do a lot of presenting while sitting at a table, and you’re not aware of what you are doing, it can be a real trap. When you sit down, your energy tends to sit down as well. Then your body collapses, your breath is restricted, your voice doesn’t engage fully, and you fail to make an impression in the room. How can you be sure you’re cultivating strong presence and maximizing the impact of your performance even when you’re seated? The essential principles of success are the same as for standing presentation skills.
Grounding is one of your crucial presentation skills. So when speaking from a seated position, you still want both feet flat on the ground, but now you have a second pair of feet, your sitting bones. You can feel those bones under your bottom when you’re sitting erect on a hard surface. That’s why I’m on a folding chair today. Your sitting bones become a second point of connection to the ground. When you’re on your sitting bones, your body naturally aligns and supports itself. Try this. Sit on the front edge of your chair. Allow yourself to roll back onto your tailbone. Notice what happens to your alignment. Now come back onto your sitting bones and appreciate how the rest of your body aligns. You don’t want to be rigid. There’s no need to look stiff, but you always want to be in charge of your own support, not collapsing into the back of the chair.
Breathing is always essential, especially for seated presentation skills. When your body is relaxed and aligned, you can still breathe deeply, even when seated. In fact, some people find it easier to feel their breath in a seated position than they do when standing. Do this with me. Keep your belly relaxed as you inhale through your mouth. Feel the in-breath expanding your entire waistline. You can even imagine the in-breath flowing down and filling the seat of your chair. Now, allow yourself to roll back onto your tailbone. Feel how the area under your sternum tends to collapse. You can no longer breathe deeply. Now come back onto your sitting bones. Feel how the belly area becomes open to the in-breath. Even when seated you have access to the same breath power that’s available when you’re standing.
Resonance is an important vocal component of good presentation skills. When your body is grounded and relaxed and aligned, and when you’re breathing deeply, you have all of the basic ingredients for cultivating rich sound vibrations with your voice. Look for torso vibrations, chest, sides, and back, and skull vibrations. Now allow yourself to collapse backward into the chair. Notice how sound vibrations feel muffled. It’s like laying a bell on its side. Now come back onto your sitting bones. Feel how every surface of your body is now free to transmit sound vibrations like a bell suspended from its center. When your whole body vibrates with the sound of your voice, you’ll be speaking with real impact.
Of course good presentation skills look natural. You don’t want to be conspicuous and look like an overeager student when the rest of your colleagues are relaxing back in their chairs with their legs crossed. But when you do have the floor, there’s no reason you can’t come forward in your chair, feel the ground under you, sit up to your full height, breathe deeply, and speak with your whole body. You’ll feel strong, look confident, speak with authority, and make a real impression.
For more exercises to help you with your presentation skills, click the link below to download the free booklet and video series The Sound of Success.