Sitting in the Sink

was something I fortunately never had to experience. Well, maybe I went into the same trap many students did before and might do after me.

A very wise teacher explained the right position of presentation materials in a room and we figured that with the setup in some rooms, as a presenter you sometimes would have to sit in the sink.

When you write the notes on the presentation you have to consider that in Western cultures people read from the left to the right, so that the eye makes a Z or maybe a circle. As the most phrases will most likely end at the right side of the screen, there is no point standing on the right side of the screen even though the position might be very comfortable for you, to enhance your phrases with the according gestures.

Unfortunately for the audience when you start using your hands to show something in the presentation, they are unable to see and read anything. Sure, sometimes you have to show where you are, especially when you use graphics and charts. But maybe you can refrain from using any of your body parts and switch to laser pointers or pointers in general.

When you would decide right now: Okay, from now on I am standing on the left side of the screen and will enable my listeners to read the slides. Well, not in all classrooms of Metropolia this is possible; at least when you don’t want to end sitting in the sink.

But it is not just about where you stand but about how you are standing. Theory indicates that standing erect and with shoulders down you feel confident and secure. You open yourself to the audience. On the contrary, turning your back to the audience permanently, clenching your hands or protecting your body with your hands/arms (arms folded) shows your insecurity and indicates to the audience that you would rather like to be someplace else.

Should you consider sitting during your presentation, there are also some rules to this as well. When you are sitting down you are limiting your possibilities to gesture, sitting reduces the amount of gestures by about 50%. Further, due to different breathing techniques when sitting, your voice is not able to project the same emotions and tones as when you would stand. And the worst think about sitting down is you start reading your notes (when you have some). The worst thing of all is your inability to make eye contact with your listeners because you are on eye level with them and you can only see the immediate audience right in front of you.

There is about only one situation when sitting is better than standing, when you are looking at the work of others who sit. Maybe you have been in the situation, where people were looking over your shoulder to see what you are doing. Especially teachers in high school like to do it because you feel uncomfortable having it done, and even though you might have not done anything wrong, it still feels like it. Therefore it is better when you are getting down on the same level with the people whose work you want to see or evaluate. That way the people are more respondent to your observation because you are exercising no pressure on them and are not superior to them. This will make group work where you are the facilitator more easy and rewarding.

At last, following all the rules that are there to presenting and communicating could actually throw you off. Normally before presentations one is tense and nervous so having wise people around telling you how best to do your work won’t help. Therefore you might want to start practicing your speeches in front of the mirror or friends. That way you can work on it step by step: first getting your text straight, then getting your body under control.

I know ultimately reading all those great tips, won’t inevitably ensure you a good grade, but maybe you can try to focus on some of the points and develop a routine doing it. The only thing left to say: Good luck and break a leg!

One Comment

  1. Louise says:

    Loved the catchy title of your blog post – made me read it – and nearly fell off my chair when I realised what it is referring to! For those not in the know – it is classroom A111b (and others like it) that are working logistically against one of my latest tips for presenting with slides: stand to the left of your audience’s view of the slide – as explained in this blog post. For fuller reference to this tip and logic behind it – see books by Jerry Weissman “the Jedi Master of presentations and effective communication”. There are a few in the library – I hope! Or of course – do what all students do instead – and Google him!
    Happy presenting everyone!


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