Executive Careers Blog

Use Your Body to Present Your Ideas

1) STEP UP to the front of the room, as if delighted to be there.
Jerry Seinfeld

I remember watching Jerry Seinfeld perform at the peak of his stand-up career.

His entrance—even before he said a word—made a strong impression.

He dashed onto the stage.

He looked like he couldn't wait to get started. Or else he was being chased.

Either way, his excitement was contagious.

2) STEP AWAY from the podium.

Sure, it feels safe to stand behind the podium. Everyone does it—why be different?

Simple: different captures attention.

And there's something else: we've all seen those crime shows where the police try to get the suspect out of the car or out the house, into plain sight.

Imagine the police are in your audience. You're the suspect.

One cop has a bullhorn: “Move away from that podium,” he commands, “before someone gets hurt.”

You, of course, are standing behind the podium precisely because you don’t want to get hurt. The podium feels like a fortress.

But your audience needs to see you because, like the police, the more they see, the more they trust.

3) STEP INTO a question.

One step forward—that’s all it takes to project confidence. Step back and you look fearful, like you’re retreating.

The only time you might want to step back is when the question is completely inappropriate. By moving away, intentionally, you say, "Sorry, I'm not going anywhere near that one."

But most questions deserve to be welcomed. Step forward.

4) STEP INTO the audience.

It was the 1996 Republican national convention. Elizabeth Dole was the speaker.

Suddenly, she "descended the twelve platform steps in high heels" to interact with a startled audience (“Elizabeth Hanford Dole: Speaking from the Heart,” Wertheimer and Gutgold).

Note to men: High heels are optional. Dole could have worn flip-flops, it still would have been riveting. Why? Because it was different.

5) STEP TO THE SIDE to spark audience discussion.

Just because you’re the speaker, doesn’t mean you need to answer every question, or participate in every exchange.

Toss a question out to the audience; once they engage, move out of the way. “Talk amongst yourselves,” your positioning says.

Then, when you’re ready, step back in and take charge.

Tip: Presenting your ideas is a physical act. To move your audience—move.

Consultant, author, speaker, and founder of express potential® (  Paul Hellman has worked with CEOs, executives, and managers at leading companies for over 25 years to improve performance and productivity at work. His latest book is “Naked at Work: How to Stay Sane When Your Job Drives You Crazy,” and his columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and other leading papers.

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