To stand or to sit? This seemingly simple question sparks a lot of debate – and feelings – in the speaking community! In this Communication Q&A, I tackle the question of whether it’s better to sit or stand when you’re giving a talk or presentation via video conference (or Zoom, or any other virtual meeting platform).
Today’s question is from Matt, who asks: “Hi Lauren, I’ve been told that I should always stand while giving a presentation on video conference. It seems a little weird to me because we’re all going to be sitting at our desks anyway. Is this true? Am I wrong to sit? Should I be standing? Matt”
Watch the video below for my answer to this thorny question! You can also scroll down to read the full transcript, or click here to watch the video on YouTube.
I’d love to hear your take on this! Click on the video, scroll to the YouTube comments section and tell me: What do you prefer doing when you’re presenting while on webcam? Are you a stander? Are you a sitter? Are you undecided, do you not know?
Of course, standing vs. sitting isn’t the only question to solve when it comes to communicating with skill, clarity, and polish in virtual meetings. If you want to hone your virtual communication abilities, be sure to check out my course ‘Making the Most of Video Conferencing” at https://laurensergy.com/videoconferenceskills/
Do you stand? Do you not stand?
Let them fight
Hello everyone! Welcome to Communication Q&A and today we have a surprisingly controversial question from Matt who asks: “Hi Lauren, I’ve been told that I should always stand while giving a presentation on video conference. It seems a little weird to me because we’re all going to be sitting at our desks anyway. Is this true? Am I wrong to sit? Should I be standing? Matt”
Great question, Matt. There is actually a lot of debate, and even I would say a little bit of controversy, about this within speaking circles. Thanks to the fact that most of us are doing all of our speaking virtually now, the ideal positioning for how a speaker should present when they’re on webcam is a pretty hot topic. And for me it comes down to this: Do what works for you.
There are very few blanket rules that apply to every speaking scenario, and certainly the question of whether to sit or stand if you’re presenting on video conference is one of them. I prefer sitting and I know some colleagues – I have many good friends – who prefer standing. Many people feel that when you stand or when they stand to present they naturally have more movement and energy in whatever it is they’re doing.
On the other hand, I find it a little strange to stand and present in a video conference setting because of the nature of the setup. The people who are watching me are going to be watching me fairly close in proximity in terms of how far away they’re sitting on their screen. And also the overall environment – because we are confined to this little webcam frame – to me feels more intimate and in that case when I’m standing and presenting at people, it almost comes across as being a little more forward or aggressive than I would like.
I also find that when filming video conference you necessarily have to be confined to pretty much one spot. You don’t want to be wandering around in front of the camera because that will usually trigger various auto focus issues with the camera itself. Of course, if I was on a stage I would be wandering all over the place – I love moving around when I speak. But on camera I’m just confined to one spot a little bit more and I find that being seated helps me with that.
One thing I don’t agree with is the notion that you automatically come across as having more energy and more presence when you’re standing while presenting on a webcam. You can still move around a great deal when you’re sitting. As you can tell, I use a lot of gesture. I use up my entire camera frame when I’m seated and presenting via video conference. The key here is to make sure that you’re sitting with energy. You want to actually be sitting with the same sort of physical energy and physical engagement that you would be if you were standing up to present. Now what do I mean by physical engagement? I’m mostly talking about your core. Are your abs engaged? Are they fully supporting you as you sit up nice and straight with your back well away from the back of the chair? I never want to slump back or lean or do anything overly relaxed if I’m going to be sitting and presenting. I sit up and away from the back of my chair with a lot of energy. This actually helps me gesture with a little more verve and vim and vigor – all of those lovely v words (I’m feeling very alliterative today). But it also helps me maintain better posture, have my shoulders squared off and supports my voice the way I want so I can be heard nice and clearly. I have nice rich tones of voice even though I’m sitting while I’m speaking.
Ultimately, to figure out what’s going to work best for you you need to experiment. I have tried presenting on webcam while standing, I’ve tried it while sitting. I’ve tried it in various different setups and I have found that this is what I personally prefer. Similarly, many of my professional speaking colleagues have tried it standing have tried it sitting and for some of them standing is what feels better. So give it a shot in different scenarios.
If you don’t have much opportunity to practice with a live audience in terms of your presentation – maybe you’re only giving a few presentations every now and then – then flip on a zoom meeting with yourself and try it out with yourself, just see how it feels (standing versus sitting) and then do what works for you. No hard and fast rules! It’s whatever comes across the easiest the most natural and the most intuitive for the speaker.
There’s the answer to your question, thank you so much! It was a really good one. And now I would like to turn it over to everyone watching this video. What do you prefer doing when you’re presenting while on webcam? Are you a stander? Are you a sitter? Are you undecided, do you not know? Type it down in the comments down below and let’s keep this conversation going. And of course make sure that you don’t miss any of my great upcoming Q&A videos, and you can also check out my full back catalog over at laurensergy.com. Make sure that you sign up in the pop-up so that my next Q&A video comes straight to your inbox and you can continue working on your communication and presentation skills.
Thank you so much for joining me today and I look forward to seeing you on the next communication Q&A