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Move With Purpose, Stand Dynamically: Be A Comfortable, Confident And In-Control Presenter

Richard Newman

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move with purpose

Unfortunately, this can build lifelong bad habits in the way we hold our bodies.


Can you remember how awkward you sometimes felt in high school? 

You may have been picked on for all sorts of reasons—looking different, working hard, expressing yourself. To avoid being teased, many of us fall into the trap of pretending not to care, of trying to look cool or casual just to fit in. 

Unfortunately, this can build lifelong bad habits in the way we hold our bodies.

For me, I tried to hide my height. At school, many of my friends were shorter than me, so I would hunch and slump in my seat in order to stay on eye level with them. I wanted to avoid being the tall poppy most likely to have its head sliced off by bullies. In an attempt to cover up my studious nature and appear less eager, I learned to walk with minimal effort, wearing down my shoes. 

I had to unlearn these habits as an adult and move with purpose when speaking in front of an audience. And when I coach people through my company, Body Talk, I help other people who, without realizing it, have adopted postural habits to fit in. 

Undoing society’s influence on our posture will take some personal work, and adhering to a few key basics: 

1. You don’t have to stand “like a man”—just stand like yourself.

Men and women who stand with their feet shoulder-width apart are more convincing and engaging, as proven by my research that was published in the Journal of Psychology. You don’t need to do this all of the time, but it helps when you are aiming to lead a room of people.

While our male-dominated society has created expectations for women to stand feet together, in a weaker position, this is not how you were born to stand. Women are subject to the laws of gravity in the same way that men are. 

You don’t have to look far to find plenty of female examples. Beyoncé may move around the stage at her concerts, but when it’s time for a strong delivery she will stand centered. In the acting world, Julia Roberts and Emma Watson can often be seen walking down the red carpet, then turning to face the cameras for photos, standing nicely balanced with their feet shoulder-width apart.

Essentially, you don’t have to stand “like” anyone else. You can stand exactly like yourself. But however you do it, you should be standing in such a way that you help your body use gravity to its advantage. This means centering your weight and distributing it evenly, generally with your legs slightly apart. 

You’ll look balanced but comfortable, powerful but relaxed. 

2. Move with purpose.

When it comes time to stand in front of a group, don’t move for the sake of moving. Move with purpose and for a reason. Move with purpose in order to help your audience understand something, or to point out a key message on your powerpoint screen. 

Run through your speech several times and note what impulses to move you have. Ask yourself if those movements help you talk in an effective way. If you feel a burst of inspired energy to take a few steps as you’re talking, allow yourself to move but settle in a centered position for key messages. You’ll see comedians doing this all the time. They move with purpose by shifting around as they tell a funny story, but they stand still for the punch-line.

3. Know your standing habits. 

Unfortunately, this is really difficult to master. People have all sorts of wiggly habits they have to kick when trying to stand still on stage: 

  • The Lean: Placing all your weight on one side of your body, usually prompting one hip to pop and one foot to lightly rest against the other. 
  • The Sway: The motion that comes from adjusting your weight from one side to the other when doing The Lean. Some people will do this repeatedly, creating a gentle swinging motion.
  • The James Dean: By trying to show you don’t care, you inadvertently slouch your shoulders down and curve your back. This worked for Mr. Dean, but it doesn’t work when you have a serious message to deliver. 

Part of conquering a bad wiggle is identifying the wiggle in the first place. Once you’ve noticed how you fidget, you can remove these habits and stand with dynamic stillness. 

4. Practice dynamic stillness. 

I first heard about dynamic stillness during my acting training. It baffled me. 

How could you be dynamic without moving? 

I constantly wanted to show how hard I was working on stage in order to try and please my acting teachers and the audience, so I would move around a lot, employing every muscle in my body and face at all times. Directors would then tell me to move less and trust stillness. They said if I stood with great posture and spoke the words with the correct emotional tone, then the message would travel. 

We can see this in great actors like Dame Judi Dench or Morgan Freeman. They don’t have to move a muscle on stage but can deliver a monologue that keeps the audience rapt with attention. 

You can learn this same type of stillness. But first, you’ll have to fix your posture. This means: 

  • Find your center: You may need a friend to help you with this one, but essentially you should stand so that you can feel your center of gravity and where it needs to be. Then you should practice standing over it. 
  • Check your hands, head and feet: The “Hands, Head, and Feet” technique is a great quick stretch for re-centering your body and adjusting your posture. It is an elongated stretch upwards through your arms and down through your feet that focuses on the placement of your body parts to help you feel taller. You can do this by standing with your feet shoulder-width, stretching up to the ceiling, then looking up to the ceiling too. Coming back down, place your heels down first as you keep reaching upwards. Then bring down your hands. Finally, your head. You should feel about two inches taller and lifted through your posture! 
  • Imagine you’re Clark Kent: Thinking of yourself as a superhero can help you not only feel better but stand a little straighter. Lifting your sternum up just a little from a centered position will help you project more confidence. Just make sure you don’t overdo it—you’re going for Superman, not the Hulk. 

If you would like to learn more about improving your communication at work you can listen to my new podcast ‘Born To Speak’ on iTunes.

You can also contact us to run a workshop for your team. And you can connect with me on Linkedin to read the latest articles!

Here are a few other articles you might find helpful:

5 Questions Every Public Speaker Needs To Ask Themselves

What Do Public Speakers And First Responders Have In Common? These 3 Relaxation Habits

The Underlying Fears Holding You Back From Having Presence And Confidence In Front Of An Audience


I have been teaching clients how to communicate their ideas for 18 years, working with 50,000 people across 45 countries. One client gained $1.5Billion in new business in just one year, through applying simple changes. You can order my new book ‘You Were Born To Speak’ on Amazon.

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