I recently worked with a female client who stands almost 6’ tall in heels. When rehearsing her presentation, Diane kept collapsing her body and slouching. With her chest caved-in slightly she would shift all her weight onto one hip and make herself look like a question mark. “Look,” I said to her “there are people who would envy you for your height: why don’t you stand up straight and you’ll look and feel more confident?” Her response: she doesn’t want to come across as too aggressive or overbearing.
Another client of mine is petite (what she calls “vertically challenged”). Sandra compensates for her lack of stature by wearing stiletto heels every day and stiffening her back as if she were attached to a marionette string at the back of her head. The result is that she tends to teeter and that she looks like she’s…well, trying to look taller.
Neither of these women is successfully projecting a confident presence because they are too busy shrinking and stretching. What to do?
- If you’re tall, take advantage of your height by standing up straight. Watch out for the urge to lean on chairs and tables or sink into your hip. Consider your footwear and if you really don’t want to tower over people then choose a lower heel. When tall people shrink to avoid sticking out the audience gets the impression that they are not confident or are being too informal. Aggression and arrogance are not communicated through good posture (unless you’re also wielding a club and a bullhorn).
- If you are petite don’t try to yank yourself into a rigid upright posture. Plant your feet under you at hip width so that you appear grounded. Your wardrobe can have a much bigger impact on your appearance than your shoes so consider wearing an outfit all in one tone or colour range to give the illusion of height. If you are going to wear high heels, try to select boots with more stability and a thicker heel so that you do not look tippy.
And a final tip for both tall and petite ladies: walk slowly and deliberately. Scurrying and shuffling are good for mice and elephants – not for powerful presenters!