Your Ready Position.
Your ready position is the default stance you assume when giving your talk, when not emphasizing a point with movement and gesture.
Think a moment about how you stand while you give your talk.
I refer to the time when you’re not moving about the stage to emphasize this or that point.
This especially powerful ready position is your anchor, your life preserver in a storm. Your safe harbor.
Powerful . . . Confident . . . In command
When you stride to the stage, move to the command position in front of the lectern and facing the crowd.
Now, plant yourself as you would a paving stone in a garden. Plant yourself firmly, as a stone, with feet shoulder-width apart, weight evenly distributed, shoulders squared. Plant yourself as a deeply rooted Redwood.
Do not slouch or put more weight on one foot than on the other. Point your toes slightly outward. Neither slump, nor stiffen. Shoulders back, head up, expectant.
Do not allow your head to settle down betwixt your collar bones. This compresses your neck like a collapsed concertina. It cramps your voice box and cuts the flow of air that you need to speak.
At this point, let your hands hang loosely at your sides . . . (in a moment, we’ll give you something to do with your hands).
Walking and pointing and looking and eye-contact? Forget it for now.
Forget it all for now.
First, you must seize control of yourself and adopt your strong, basic stance and make it your habit.
You must control all of those little tics and habits and nervous gestures that leech the strength from your presentation. The tics and habits that telegraph your nervousness and lack of confidence.
What tics and habits, you say? Every young presenter has at least some of them and the ready position can help remedy the following pathologies.
Do Not cross your leg in front of you while you balance on the other. This “standing cross” is more prevalent, for some reason, among female presenters than among males. Some males have this habit as well. This is a particularly debilitating movement from both the standpoint of the audience and for you. It projects instability. And it makes you feel unstable.
Do Not cock your hip to one side – this is called a “hip-shot.” Again, this action undermines your foundation. This hip-shot posture degrades your presentation in multiple ways. It shouts nonchalance. It denotes disinterest and impatience. It cries out to the audience a breezy bar demeanor that is completely at odds with the spoken message you want to convey.
Do Not engage in little choppy steps. This side-to-side dance is common. It telegraphs nervousness.
Do Not slump your shoulders. Few things project lack of confidence like rounded shoulders. Slumping shoulders can be a reflexive response to nervousness that leads to a “closed body position.”
Again. Stand in one place, your feet comfortably shoulder-width apart, toes slightly pointed outward. Arms at your sides.
Your Foundation – Your Ready Position
Your goal at this point is to maintain a solid physical foundation. To project an image of confidence to the audience and to imbue yourself with confidence in point of fact. You begin to do this with your stance – solid and confident.
Now here is the most important guidance for your Foundation “Ready” position.
Stand as described, and place your left hand in your pants pocket, out of the way. This position should be your default position. Putting the hand in your pocket gets it out of the way and keeps you out of trouble. Moreover, it projects confidence.
If you have no pocket, ease your left hand a bit behind you and to the side. No, not in a military posture, but enough to disengage it. If you are left-handed, of course disengage your right hand.
And, no, it is not “unprofessional.” This position carries a multitude of positives and no negatives. You never go wrong with this position.
It imbues you with confidence and keeps you copacetic. To your audience, it projects competence, confidence, reassurance, and sobriety: “Here is someone who knows his/her stuff.”
This is your Ready Position.
Everything else you do flows from this position. Practice your two-minute talk from this position and do not move.
Stop and think. When you are ready to make a point that is crucial to your thesis . . . When you are ready to shift subjects or major ideas . . . then—
Then, step to the left while addressing the people on the left flank. Talk to them. Then, step to the right and address those on your right. Hold open your hands, palms up. Walk toward your audience a step or two. Look them in the eyes. Speak to individuals.
Then, step back to the center and retake your ready position.
Let your movements emphasize your points. When you gesture to a portion of the audience, step toward them in a kind of supplication.
And always always, always go back to the ready postion. I have seen dozens of young speakers transformed into capable, confident speakers by virtue of this alone.
How is that possible? By removing the doubt associated with “How will I stand.”
This powerful and stable ready position imbues you with confidence, your first step toward building positive energy within yourself.
The Ready Position — it’s your safe harbor in a sea of presentation uncertainty.