Hari Patience-Davies shares a simple trick to stop swaying when you’re standing.

A memory popped up on Facebook this week; it’s been three years since I went to the conference in California that fundamentally shifted all of my career goals and aspirations.

I was working at Accenture and had made the finalists of a global innovation speech competition. There were 10 of us, each with ideas about how digital technology could improve the world. As a big part of the conference was us speaking on stage, presenting our mini-TED type talks, we were all flown in a day early to undergo some intensive presentation training with a coach.

I had no idea that such a job existed but I knew straight away it was what I wanted to do with my life. It’s a wonderful feeling to be here, three years later, actually doing it.

But the bit of advice I want to share with you today came not from that coach but from one of the other speakers.

The penny trick.

When presenting, people are encouraged to stand up. In general, it’s good advice – it opens up the lungs and people tend to be more energised when they’re standing rather than sitting. But there is a downside – the swaying.

The problem with swaying is that no one ever thinks they sway. It’s like snoring that way. Swaying from foot to foot is an entirely unconscious action, and especially when you’ve got your mind focussed on giving your speech and not forgetting anything, it’s a hard habit to crack down on.

But we need to because swaying can make you look disinterested and unfocussed. It can even trigger motion sickness in audience members. Swaying is bad body language for speaking or presenting.

One of my fellow speakers had this advice:

Put a penny in your shoe.

She learned with when playing Netball. In Netball when you catch the ball you can only move one foot – the other must stay on the ground. But as with swaying, it can be hard to consciously keep your foot on the ground – it takes a lot of concentration.

When practicing, you put a penny in your shoe. The coin settles in the front of your shoe, and it’s not painful, but you don’t ever forget it’s there. So when you absent-mindedly shift your weight, your foot feels the penny anew and you’re reminded not to move.

I’ve since tried this, and it works.

You can either practice your speech with the penny in your shoe and build the habit of not swaying, or, if the speech is short or you’re choosing to stand up to present virtually, you can have the penny in your shoe the whole time you’re speaking, reminding you not to sway and keeping your body stable and steady.

And so thank you, Kate Lis-Clarke. It was good advice then, and it’s good advice now, and every time I pass it on I think of us all in California, and hope you (and everyone else) is doing well.


Image by Pixabay on Pexels

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *