Improving Your Speaking Posture

by Stephen Boyd | March 31, 2004

Slouching as you speak, moving from one foot to the other, or leaning on the lectern are not ways to engender an audience’s confidence in you and your message. You may not be aware of your bad posture, but since you are the focus of the audience’s attention, poor and uncertain posture will be obvious to your listeners.

There are many aspects of delivering a speech which you as the speaker cannot control, but proper posture is certainly one variable you can control. Begin your speech by standing on the balls of your feet with your feet 7 to 12 inches apart. This will give you balance for the rest of the body and will help you to be erect without looking robotic.

Treat the lectern as you would a hot stove. Touch gingerly but don’t lean on it as though it were a post. As you introduce a new point, take your hand off the lectern and gesture to show you are changing direction. Or when you are ready to discuss another aspect of the topic, take a step away from the lectern and toward your audience. Purposeful movement of any kind will help insure a natural and confident posture.

Avoid shifting the weight of your body as you speak. This can lead to standing on one foot or moving back and forth like a porch swing. Start out using the balls of the feet technique and occasionally take a step to show changes in the direction of your presentation.

Consider the mental image of "planting your feet" as you begin to speak. This will help stabilize your posture and keep you from "bouncing" on your feet while speaking. Planting conjures up the idea that you will stay in one place for a while.

Having your hands in front of you or at your side when you gesture and not in a pocket or clasped together will also make you have better posture and appear more poised.

With good posture you have a promising foundation for showing confidence and being in control of your speaking situation.

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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