"Be sure to put your feet in the right place, then stand firm."– Abraham Lincoln
No doubt, there’ll come a time when you’ll have to decide what you think about something, then advocate for it.
We’re not talking about that, though we imagine Abraham Lincoln was.
We’re talking about something more, ahem, pedestrian. Your feet. And where you put them when you’re presenting.
Because it turns out it’s hard to make an audience think you stand for something when you don’t take a literal stand--when you don't stop meandering and shuffling to plant yourself solidly. (Watch for it in other speakers and see if you don't agree.)
Standing well is also one of those small changes you can make to your public speaking that delivers larger-than-you-might-think results.
When your feet are well-spaced, you appear more confident and in control. You move more easily and naturally. And you present fewer distractions for your audience.
Here’s how we recommend you approach setting up your stance:
When feet are too close together or too far apart, you won’t be able to control and move your upper body effectively. The goal with foot placement is to create a balanced, solid foundation.
If you feel awkward or you’re concerned you might sway side to side, slide one foot slightly back. You don’t have to toe an imaginary line as long as the rest of your body is squared up to the audience.
Send the energy where the audience can see it. Too often, we see presenters keep their upper bodies stiff and move their feet restlessly in a public speaker's version of Riverdance.
Go for the reverse of that. With feet solidly in place, knees bent, you can animate the torso and shoulders, moving athletically and naturally to support your message.
Taking a stand doesn’t mean you have to remain glued in place. You can walk—just avoid pacing side to side, nonstop, for no reason.
And without leaving your spot, you can:
Here are a number of things you should AVOID doing:
In one of our recent Executive Seminars, a quite tall and brilliant young man insisted on standing with his feet close together, side by side. Every time he spoke, he wriggled and twisted nonstop. He was undermining his message, because he seemed so ill at ease delivering it.
Then we insisted he place his feet shoulder width apart (and threatened to Velcro them to the carpet if he didn’t keep them there). His classmates noticed immediately that his body language changed. That broader base gave his stage presence the solidity it had been missing, and was a perfect example of how a small change can make a significant difference.
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