Commanding The Room As A Short Presenter


By Jeffrey Hartman

Published June 2015

Public speaking isnt for everyone. Some people come to life before an audience and thrive on the attention. Others shrink from the stage and avoid any possibility of having to speak publicly. Personality has much to do with this, but so does confidence. For a short guy, the confidence piece sometimes needs some cultivation.


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I presented to students every day during my teaching career. Doing so felt comfortable for me, especially as my career progressed. This didn't mean I never felt nervous. With each new class assigned to me, I heard my voice echo in the room for the first few minutes of the first lesson. My nervousness dissipated quickly as I became consumed by activity in the classroom, but those first few minutes always were unnerving. I kept this to myself.

By being consistently competent in all the facets of my job, I earned the respect of my colleagues and of the administrators who supervised me. Respect led to opportunities. I frequently designed and ran professional development sessions in my school. My prowess for leading these allowed me to become an instructor for other district-wide trainings. Eventually, I held an administrative role through which I routinely presented to colleagues in my school and others.


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Presenting for colleagues I worked with every day was as comfortable for me as teaching students. I knew these people. They knew me. I had their respect before I started. We had relationships that were bigger than the brief occasions we spent in training together. The dynamic was different presenting for teachers and administrators from others schools. They had no idea who I was. I had to impress them immediately.

Admittedly, I was conscious of how I would appear to them. I realized they could be distracted by my height. Some might not take me seriously and might consider me too diminutive to be a legitimate authority on anything. Most of the administrators and presenters Ive known have been of average and even above average height. Few were as short as me, including the women.

I decided to not let them notice. My best weapon was my knowledge. I realized I was speaking and they were listening because someone had deemed me the expert. They were waiting for me to share something with them. I couldnt stammer or appear frazzled. I had to deliver forcefully and with the utmost confidence.

To do this right, I made sure I was prepared. I studied what I was presenting until I knew it without notes. I outlined presentations with care, being sure to include a hook followed by content that could move at a lively pace. I rehearsed to get my timing down. I used media sparingly, but made sure I was in command of any I used.


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Before the presentation, I knew what I had to say and how to say it. I started immediately and got to the point. By being direct, I asserted myself. I kept the pace brisk without rushing. My audience would have to pay attention to keep up. This put their attention on the subject matter. If they were going to regard me at all, I wanted them to think about how I knew what I was talking about and how to talk about it. I didn't want them to dwell on my size.

Although I still felt some slight nervousness, I turned this into energy. I didn't want to appear frazzled or frantic by speaking too quickly, but I could appear powerful by projecting. Instead of anxiously pacing or rocking, I moved deliberately closer to select audience members. I tried to be personable, making eye contact and inviting participation. These would be key for any presenter, but I needed to be more than just any presenter.


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Some soft elements helped. Yes, I wore slightly heeled shoes. Yes, I usually wore vertical stripes. If I had to present in a suit, I made certain to pay up for one that fit. Depending on the room, I kept some slight distance so I could maintain an illusion of height. I was conscious of maintaining a bit of distance even when I approached the audience. I made a point not to approach anyone prior to a presentation and to not stand right next to anyone much taller than me while in view of the audience. Finally, I tried not to stay behind a podium, figuring this was too clear a point of reference.

Knowing my material, presenting it briskly, and being aware of my appearance helped me present with confidence that overshadowed my size. Height doesn't have to limit anyone who wishes to be a presenter. It should be consideration when preparing, though.


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