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Dave Hill, Engineer, Professional Speaker, Trainer, Author

Dave Hill, Engineer, Professional Speaker, Trainer, Author

Think about the meetings you have attended where everyone is sitting at a table and someone is trying to convey information and get people to agree.   Can you recall times when you were delivering information and no one was paying attention to you?  Perhaps attendees were flicking through your handout materials; maybe the discussions were going off on an emotional tangent.

Here are some success strategies for conducting a presentation while seated.


  1. Practice your presentation out loud until it starts to flow smoothly.
  2. Determine the least disruptive method of distributing handouts. See further details below.
  3. Cell phones, BlackBerries, iPods, etc. – what rules will apply?  Will you ask participants to put their electronic devices on vibrate and refrain from using them unless something urgent comes up?  A positive way to ask is: “I would appreciate it if you would refrain from using your cell phones or laptops.  I realize that some of you may have issues going on that you need to monitor, but please put your devices on vibrate and leave the room for any discussions.”


  1. If feasible, sit near the primary decision-makers (directly opposite them if possible).  This enables you to observe body language, make strong eye contact and be heard clearly.
  2. It is important to remember that everyone at the table is your customer; make sure you are in a position where you can make eye contact with everyone.


  1.  Sit upright with both feet firmly on the ground. Good posture provides an image of professionalism and maximizes the use of the diaphragm for voice projection.  Your hands should rest above the table so they are instantly available for purposeful gestures.


Option 1: Place the handout or handouts at each seating place.

Advantage:  It can be the least disruptive.  Once you need participants to review a section, ask them to open the handout, then guide them to the section you want to discuss.

Disadvantage:  They may decide to read ahead instead of concentrating on what you are saying (unless you ask them not to review the handout until asked to).

Option 2: Pass the handouts out at the point in the presentation that you want to review the information with attendees (consider having an audience member as a helper).

Advantage:  This method reduces the potential for the handout to be distracting.

Disadvantage:  If you do not coordinate it well, it can disrupt the meeting and use up your allocated time.


It is imperative that attendees find the specific handout sections as quickly as possible.  If people cannot locate what you are talking about, they may get frustrated or miss the point you are making.

  1. Color-coordinate multiple handouts and refer to the colors in your presentation.
  2. Number each page and refer to the numbers.
  3. Assemble the handouts using staples or put them in a binder  separated with numbered or colored tabs.  The tabs can also be used to lead the audience to a specific handout.
  4. Keep the handout information as uncluttered as possible so that a simple glance will bring the audience to a specific section. If you have control over the handout design, consider including some white space to allow audience members to take notes.
  5. If the information on the handout is cluttered or difficult to navigate, consider marking the sections of interest in different colors, circling sections or highlighting text to make it easier to direct attendees to the right place.