Sit and deliver: Give a casual presentation while still looking professional

Our resident communications expert brings you tips for delivering a more casual presentation while seated in person or in a virtual setting—without compromising your professionalism.

Our resident communications expert brings you tips for delivering a more casual presentation while seated in person or in a virtual setting—without compromising your professionalism.

By Phil Stella

It’s been two years since the start of COVID and many of us have been fortunate enough to work from the comfort of our homes during the pandemic. Some businesses, in fact, have decided to offer flexible work arrangements more permanently.

Can I get a show of hands—how many people think they have watched or given 50 virtual presentations during remote work? Is the number more like 100? Higher?

Needless to say, COVID has changed the way we do business. Whether we realize it or not, many of us have inherently moved from a workforce that gave mostly standing presentations, to now almost exclusively sitting. Even when in person, many companies are gravitating toward more casual meetings and environments.

So, what does this mean for workplace presenters? Do the same guidelines apply to a seated presentation as ones given while standing? Here are some tips for delivering a more casual presentation while seated in person or in a virtual setting—without compromising your professionalism. 

Tip no. 1: Sit smart

When delivering a virtual presentation, you don’t have a choice—you must sit behind the computer. In these instances, sitting smart suggests making sure the camera on the desktop or laptop is as close to your seated eye level as possible. This avoids those bad shots where we see too much of the ceiling and not enough of you. 

Also make sure you’re sitting facing the window instead of having the strong light source behind you washing out the image. Position yourself in a spot where there isn’t a distracting background behind you. If needed, use the blur background option on your software. While uploaded backgrounds can position you at your favorite vacation spot, on a movie set, or in front of First Energy Stadium—and certainly make for a memorable and fun presentation—try to reserve those for the most casual opportunities, such as internal presentations. 

It’s also important to sit smart when delivering a more casual in-person presentation to a small, seated group in a conference room. While positioning yourself at the head of the typical rectangular table seems logical, the people at the other end of the table may feel disconnected. Where possible, sit in the middle of the long side, so people at both ends are the same distance away and closer.

Tip no. 2: Sit Still 

You know how when you watch a standing presenter bobble from foot to foot you can’t concentrate on what they’re saying? The same logic applies to seated delivery. Swaying or rocking distracts your audience, and the magnified image really looks lame on Zoom. If it helps, tighten the knobs on the chair so you can’t swivel or rock. Refrain from fiddling with anything at your desk or moving your camera around (you should test out your camera positioning ahead of time so there isn’t any need to change it in the moment). And be sure to keep your notes very close to the camera—without getting in the shot—to avoid looking away too much.

When it comes to sitting still, the same tips pretty much apply to in-person presentations. Nobody sitting around that conference table wants to watch you bouncing, rocking, or fiddling. Finally, as opposed to virtual where you only have the camera to connect with, in a live setting be sure to still effectively make sustained eye contact with everyone at the table even from a seated position. 

Thankfully for many of us hand-talkers, you can still gesture effectively while seated. Just make sure your hands are above the table and clearly visible. Same goes for virtual. The angle of the shot is narrow, so check that your hands can be seen on screen.

Tip no. 3: Sit straight

OK, this is a big one: Avoid slouching in the chair. Whether in person or virtual, slouching is never a good idea. It projects too casual of an image instead of one that is credible and confident. Be comfortable, but still look like you belong there.

These best practices are easy to understand, but sometimes difficult to embrace and get comfortable with. So, practice your seated in-person or virtual presentations ahead of time. Try to record them if you can so you see what they see. Then ask yourself, “Is this person reliable, credible and professional?” If you answered “yes,” chances are your audiences will too.

Best wishes for success adapting standing and delivering to a seated situation.

Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication,, 440 804-4785, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.   


On Key

Related Posts

Elevate Your Elevator Speech

How prepared are you to answer the question, “What do you do?” Everyone’s elevator speech can use an upgrade. Here are six tips to consider before your next networking event (or elevator ride).