Standing, sitting and chairs

Should you sit or stand when you speak? We look at the options

Seating matters









Should you sit or stand when you speak?

Standing will always be more powerful for you as you’ll be the focus of attention, they’ll be able to see and hear you and you’ll find it easier to move about the space to the PowerPoint or flip chart if you don’t have to keep getting up first.

Remember too that we read a lot of meaning through what we see, and if any of your audience are hard of hearing, being able to see your face, lip movements and body language will help them to put what you’re saying into context, and pick up your message. Another good reason to stand when you speak, including when making contributions in large meetings.

Face them when you speak – sitting or standing, the sound will travel better.

If you do decide to sit, consider your choice of chair.

A comfy armchair – as long as everyone has one – encourages a relaxed, informal tone best for a smaller conversational group. Remember that it’s generally harder for them to make notes, and for you to get up gracefully.

An office chair with arms looks more businesslike – but can become a trap when you to try to get up and get tangled in the little arms then the chair falls over with you on it …

Beware the swivel chair – they tend to be heavier and the temptation to swing rhythmically, especially if you’re nervous, can make you look child-like and your audience feel seasick. And fiddling with the lever can provide great comedy value when it suddenly shoots you up and down with an embarrassing release of air …

A plain static office chair is versatile, light and easy to move out of the way.

How you sit matters as much as what you sit on. Ignore the back of the chair – it’s not there to hold you up. A straight back, relaxed shoulders and your chin parallel to the floor will help you to breathe, project your voice and move with ease. Feet flat on the floor or crossed at the ankles looks better than crossing your legs.

I’ve worked as an artists’ portrait model and I’ve always noticed that if I’m perching on a backless stool it produces a more flattering painting than if I’m lounging in an armchair. So be careful not to slump and you’ll find it easier to stand up if you’re poised and alert.

Please avoid the dubious informality of sitting astride a backwards office chair – it won’t enhance your image, or their view.

The comfier the chair the more casual you’ll look to them. So consider the mood and image you want to convey, and your choice of standing, sitting and chair should support your message.