Should I sit or should I stand? header image

Should I sit or should I stand?

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Standing presenter in conference room

Sit or stand?

If today is like most days in your life, you’ll probably find yourself filing into a conference room at some point with a handful of equally busy and distracted people to have a meeting no one really has time for.

So the question comes up from time to time in our workshops – how can I make these situations work better?  Should I just sit like everyone always does or is there any advantage to standing?

The answer is found in a simple study by the Wharton School of Business. A presenter pitched his business proposition to a room full of potential investors while seated around the table with them. When he left the room, the researcher asked the group what their likelihood to invest was. The scenario was repeated a number of times. The outcome?

On the average, 58% said they’d invest in his business.


Then they switched it up.


A second group came into the room and sat around the table. The presenter came back in and did the same exact pitch, except this time he stood and interacted with a demo. Same content. Same close.  But slightly different delivery. He left the room and the researcher asked the new group what their likelihood to invest was.

79% said they’d invest.


His content didn’t change. His physical presence did.

There’s our answer.


When we stand, we seem to be more influential but why?


Here are three reasons:

1. It keeps focus and attention on you, the communicator.

We’ve been trained since we were in elementary school to focus on the person standing in front of the class. Standing is a nonverbal cue where to direct attention. It creates a focal point in the room. If it’s not you, it’s most likely your slides. And if your slides are text heavy, you become totally irrelevant as people tune you out to quickly read your ideas faster than you can recite them. Stay relevant by keeping the focus on you.


2. You’re perceived as having more authority.

Authority meaning person of influence, a subject matter expert, and a credible source. If you stay authentic and personable, don’t be worried about being perceived as overbearing or domineering.  Standing conveys conviction, confidence, and credibility.


3. Your audience can more easily observe your confident body language.

Your message is two-fold: spoken and observed. Your body language, what’s observed, says just as much as your message does. Standing gives you a larger platform to use engagement tools more effectively (gestures, movement, eye contact now that you can actually see all of them around the table).


With that said, know when to sit.


If you want to lead a collaborative meeting, sit. If you want to create an informal environment in a meeting, sit. If you want to build a partnership that feels peer-to-peer, sit.

Sometimes it’s tough to change cultural norms.  To do the unexpected.  But if your idea is worth considering, if you want to ensure it gets a more engaged hearing, doing something just a little different may just be what’s needed.