During an oral presentation, the message and content of your presentation is the most important element. However, the way in which you deliver that message is also essential to the audience’s understanding and reception of the material. Poor delivery and bad posture shift the audience’s focus and impede communication. Proper posture during an oral presentation is crucial to engaging and building trust with your audience.

Best Posture Practices

Proper posture during an oral presentation includes standing up straight and standing tall. As you stand upright, you also want to be relaxed and natural. Stand with your feet apart and your shoulders squared, facing the audience. A relaxed, straight posture will convey confidence and authority to your audience.

Avoid Poor Posture

Improper posture includes slouching or leaning. Some presenters become overly nervous, and attempt to anchor themselves by shifting or leaning sideways. This distracts listeners from what you are saying. Do not lean on walls, tables or the podium. This appears overly casual. Your stance should also be natural and not stiff. If you appear too rigid, it will convey discomfort to your audience. When an audience senses discomfort, it takes their attention away from the message at hand.

Why It Matters

Your posture not only conveys your attitude and a sense of certainty regarding the information you are presenting, but it also works to clarify and emphasize key points in your presentation. Oral communication is not only auditory, but also visual. Your stance will work to attract, distract, shift or hold your audience’s attention.

Posture and Movement

The way you move during an oral presentation is an extension of your posture. Too much movement can make you seem nervous, while standing rigidly without movement is off-putting. Limit your motion, moving only to emphasize a point or mark a transition in your presentation. To emphasize points, lean in or move forward. When indicating a transition, moving to the side is best. If you are an inexperienced presenter, using a podium will anchor you, so you only have to focus on the upper half of your body. This will also give you a place to rest your arms. Remember, though, not to lean on the podium.

Using Your Hands and Arms

Your hands and arms are also an extension of your posture during a speech. Your hands and arms are used to emphasize points. Keep your hands out of your pockets, as this can appear too casual. Do not fold your arms in front of you, to avoid creating a barrier that makes you seem closed off from your audience. Actions such as wringing your hands can make you seem nervous and out of control. If you are unsure what to do with your hands and arms, hold note cards.