Global communication organization Toastmasters International teaches its members that, when speaking in front of an audience, how you stand is just as important as what you say. Your posture reflects your attitude, and the correct stance conveys a sense of confidence and commands attention.
The Correct Posture for Effective Public Speaking
Toastmasters recommends following these steps to get into the correct posture for effective public speaking:
- Stand up straight with your feet 6 to 12 inches, or the width of your shoulders, apart
- Move one foot slightly ahead of the other, balancing your weight on the balls of your feet
- Relax your knees until they are straight but not locked
- Lean forward slightly, keeping your chest up and stomach in
- Let your arms hang naturally by your sides with fingers curled
- Raise your chin slightly
Take a few breaths and settle into the stance. If it feels uncomfortable, try shifting your feet slightly until you find a balanced posture that feels alert but relaxedâ€”the exact attitude you want to convey in order to influence audience members.
Health Benefits of Good Posture
Not only does standing up straight have a positive effect on your public speaking skills, the American Chiropractic Association reports that practicing correct posture has multiple health benefits. It helps keep your bones and joints correctly aligned, which allows your muscles to work as they should and your joint surfaces to wear normally. This decreases the risk of degenerative arthritis and joint pain. Good posture also reduces the risk of injury by putting less stress on the ligaments that connect spinal joints. It helps you avoid muscle fatigue, muscle strain and pain and overuse disorders.
The ACA also points out factors that contribute to poor posture, so you may work to eliminate them from your life. Obesity, stress, weak or abnormally tight muscles, high-heeled shoes, and unhealthy sitting and sleeping positions all can cause you to not stand up straight and, therefore, miss out on capturing your audience.
You could also miss out on financial benefits if poor posture causes muscle pain in your back. According to Mayo Clinic, back pain is one of the most common reasons people miss work.
Practice and Postural Alignment Exercise Videos
It takes practice for correct posture to become second nature. Make getting into the recommended position part of your rehearsal for speeches. Also practice the stance when out and about, such as when waiting in line at the grocery store.
You can help your body adjust by doing postural alignment exercises to strengthen supporting muscles. The Laser Spine Institute offers videos of such exercises at spine-exercises.com. Here, you’ll find demonstrations of bridging, trunk rotating, leg lengthening and other exercises. These exercises are often prescribed to post-surgical patients, but they also work to strengthen muscles and to prevent and relieve back pain. Since they require no equipment, they can be done at home, during a break at work or even as part of your rehearsal process for effective public speaking.