7 Tips for Great Sit-Down Presentations

Not all presentations are given standing up. The Public Speaker offers advice for giving an effective sit-down presentation.

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #230

“Be sincere; be brief; be seated.”

Those are words of advice given by Franklin D. Roosevelt on the subject of public speaking. But for this segment, I’d like to switch that phrase around a little. What if you are giving a presentation that requires you to be seated in the first place? There are ways for you to be just as effective a speaker while sitting than you are standing..


As a public speaker, I know the importance of body language. As you stand during a speech, your gestures and movements are part of the presentation as much as your supporting materials. But there are situations that may require you to be seated during a presentation. For example, your boss may ask you to present at weekly team meeting around a conference room table. Or you might be part of a round table discussion in front of a group of graduate students. Or you might be making a pitch to a client during lunch or in their office.  

Giving an effective sit-down presentation is really not that different from giving one while you’re standing. Here are 7 pointers for engaging your audience while sitting:

Tip #1: Choose Your Seat Wisely

Where you sit can have a subtle affect on how strongly you come across to your audience. If possible, seat yourself next to a key decision-maker. If there isn’t one or you don’t know who it is, then try to position yourself more on one end of the group than in the middle. It will be easier to see everyone if they are more in front of you than if they're seated on either side.

Tip #2: Use Your Entire Body (Yes, Even While Seated)

Even when you’re seated, body language can support your message or it can be a distraction. Keep your arms in an open position and not crossed in front of you. Hand gestures shouldn’t be too dramatic, but you can still use them to emphasize your words.

Keep your face relaxed and make sure your expressions support your words. Lean in to show emphasis.  Focus on your listener as much as you would like them to be engaged when you are speaking.

Tip #3: Posture Is Still Important

Sit at your desk with both feet flat on the floor and speak clearly.

Since you are probably seated at a table, you may think the only visible part of your body is the upper half. Not so! Practice this first: sit at your desk with both feet flat on the floor and speak. Now cross your legs and speak. Do you feel a difference? Your body has shifted when you crossed your legs, and if you are seated at a table, you will look a little off balance to your audience. Stay grounded with both feet and legs evenly in front of you and your posture will be much better at conveying confidence.


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.