If formal stand-up presentations are not the norm for you, you may be doing more informal presenting around a table. Don’t let your guard down when you speak from a seated position. It’s still a presentation and an opportunity to build your visibility and influence. Keep these delivery tips in mind:
The first thing to do when you take a seat is to adjust your chair up or down so that you’re sitting at the best height for the table. You never want to sit too low like a kid at the adult’s table. It’s best to sit a little higher than normal (even if your feet have to dangle). Many conference room chairs are extra cushy now and have the ability to rock, roll, and even lean way back like a recliner. Keep your chair still while you speak. You can move in the chair, but don’t let the chair move itself. Start upright and forward, but don’t be afraid to relax and shift your weight as various points in your report. Slight changes in your position will add visual interest and keep the audience engaged. Just don’t channel any nerves you feel into distracting mindless chair movement.
Think of your gestures as the bold/italic/underlining of your message. Audiences need gestures to help make sense of what you’re saying and emphasizing. At a table, one hand may be all you need as a lot of two-hand gesturing can look out of proportion for the setting. Keep your hands away from each other, too. They tend to get into trouble when they’re clasped front-and-center, telegraphing nerves or a lack of confidence as they wring and twiddle together. Try resting your other hand on the table, chair arm, or in your lap.
When seated at a table, we tend to ignore the people around us and instead zone in on the couple of folks directly across from us, sometimes to the point of making them uncomfortable. Make an effort to “click” with each set of eyes around the table which will also allow you to read their nonverbal signals and adjust accordingly. This all-inclusive eye contact will also keep your listeners on their toes (and off their phones). Keep in mind that at some point you will need to look at the person immediately to your right and left, which can take some effort, and even lean far forward or backward to click with others seated down the same long side of the table as you.