Stand Tall: How to Become a More Dynamic Speaker

Christopher Witt —  November 22, 2013

Meerkat Standing TallIn a TED Talk titled How Body Language Shapes Who You Are, Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School explains “power posing.” She describes postures that express confidence, power, and achievement — chest lifted, head held high, arms either up or propped on the hips. And she proposes that adopting these postures can change people’s internal states and make them feel more powerful.

“Our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves,” says Cuddy. “Our bodies change our minds,”

Our nonverbal also affect how people perceive us, how they think and feel about us.

The way we stand while giving a speech or making a presentation — to take just one aspect of nonverbal communication — can make us feel more confident, powerful, dynamic. And it can make others perceive us as confident, powerful, dynamic.

Here are 7 Tips for Standing Tall

  1. Balance your weight evenly on both feet, hip-width apart.
  2. Keep your knees relaxed, not locked.
  3. Pull in your abdomen to square your hips.
  4. Lift your rib cage.
  5. Roll your shoulders back and down, and keep them relaxed.
  6. Let your hands hang naturally at your sides.
  7. Hold your head in a neutral position (neither forward, backward, nor sideways), with your chin parallel to the floor.
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Christopher Witt

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Chris Witt was born in Los Angeles, California. He currently lives in San Diego. He works as a speech and presentations consultant, an executive speech coach, and an orals coach.

2 responses to Stand Tall: How to Become a More Dynamic Speaker

  1. Dear Chris,
    There is part of me that agrees with this advice and part of me struggles with it.
    Standing tall is great but so is being comfortable in your own skin
    We give speakers a lot to think about when they speak and sometimes we overload them. I guess I come from the school of feeling more natural and relaxed on stage.
    Or am I being a curmudgeon?

    • John,
      Like you, I’m divided. By and large, I do not focus on people’s presentation style — how they look and sound — as long as they’re not doing anything majorly offensive. I want them to be confident and natural, not self-conscious. At the same time standing in a certain way doesn’t take too much attention, and it produces lots of benefits.

      For example, I used to lose my voice on those days when I was speaking or training for hours on end. I learned the Alexander Technique, which was developed by an actor for actors. (Professional musicians also use the technique.) It teaches you how to hold your head (somewhat as I described in my post) so that you take the strain off your vocal chords. It works or, at least, it works for me.

      So my advice is to focus primarily on your audience and on how your message will benefit them, being as present to the moment and as authentic as possible, AND to try a few simple physical techniques that are themselves natural (but not necessarily customary) and helpful.

      Thanks for your nuanced addition to my comments