Plant Your Damn Feet

Just because there’s no podium protecting your genitals from the hostile audience doesn’t give you license to pace around the stage as if the only toilet for 50 miles was closed for repairs.

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I’m talking to you, Presenter Dude.

God knows my presentation style could use some work. I stammer. I say “um.”  I do other things that don’t work. And I, too, get happy feet on stage occasionally.  For those flaws, I apologize. And I’m working on them.

Three presentations I’ve seen recently began with a proud public service announcement warning the audience “I’m a pacer.”  Proud, I tell you. As if the most important thing to remember about her is that she can’t stand still.

Wandering around defeats the lighting designer’s work. Good lighting helps you, the presenter, look better, bigger, more vital. And it helps the audience. Lighting directs the eye to the focal point of the platform. Good lighting design ensures the audience can see the screen or television. Point a Leko with soft pink gel at a rear projection screen, and see how washed out your $29 photo from iStock looks.

When presenting from a stage or at the front of a room, show some self-control. (And anyplace you stand to present is a stage, my friend.) Here’s a simple plan:groin-protection

  • Step out from behind the podium, and stand up straight
  • Place your hands at your sides, and resist the temptation to protect your groin by clasping hands in front of you
  • Place your feet about 12 inches  apart, and leave them there

Frances Cole Jones calls this “standing in neutral.” She points out that Bill Clinton mastered the art, and it worked wonders for him. Hands in front looks uncomfortable and weak. Wandering looks nervous and undisciplined. Neutral looks confident and ready.

Besides, research shows that standing in a power position can actually make you more powerful.

Try this at home before your next presentation:

  • Stand still, hands at your sides, before a tall mirror
  • Deliver your lines
  • Raise a hand, occasionally, for movement
  • Step forward to dramatize one or two (no more) critical points
  • Leave the stage in triumph

Better yet, video yourself wandering, then standing in neutral. You’ll notice that your wandering self exits the frame again and again. When you exit the frame, your audience’s attention does, too.

I tell you all this because I want your presentation to rock. I want to focus on your great ideas instead of wondering if you have to go to the bathroom. And I want to watch your TEDx talk without feeling tempted to fly to San Francisco with a nail gun to affix your feet to the mark.

What Do You Think?