When we need to show confidence we all have our tricks.  For me, I need to wear high heels when I speak in public.  Perhaps it’s because I am on the short side or maybe it just makes me feel stronger.  I also prefer to stand and use a lapel microphone rather than a handheld or a lectern.  These are all things that help me present in public in a confident fashion.

Confidence is a tricky thing – it can be there one minute and gone the next and yet it is so important for our personal presence.

Here are 10 tips that may help you in delivering presentations and become a confident public speaker:

  1. Introduction – If you can have someone else introduce you.  It is often easier for someone else to give you a strong introduction rather than trying to do it yourself.
  2. Stand tall – You will feel more confident if you have a first grip on the earth.  Place your feet about hip width apart and please don’t cross the legs and rock if you are in front of an audience.
  3. Sit tall – When you lift your shoulders and straighten your back, you will feel more confident.  Don’t slouch back.  So much of it is in the angle of your hips and the straightness of your back.
  4. Don’t preen – For many women flipping and stroking their hair is a habit.  When in front of a group, this can be very distracting for the observers.
  5. Avoid pet phrases – Some people use a pet phrase throughout their presentations.  This can be distracting for the audience.  Things like ‘um, ok, all right’ repeated too often may encourage the audience to start counting.  Ask a trusted friend or tape your presentation to determine if you do this.
  6. Change pace – When I am nervous I tend to speed up and forget to pause.  Remember, your audience needs those pauses to absorb your words.  Some repetition works but don’t overdo it.
  7. Vary your pitch – Some presenters talk in a monotone with little change of pace or pitch.  This is likely to make it difficult for your audience to hear your key messages.
  8. Lost for words? – If you lose your train of thought just take a minute, breathe, take a sip of water and looks at your notes.  I normally have a list of dot points that I want to make in the order I want to make them.
  9. Someone interrupts – Stop, don’t try to go in competition.  Either point out you were not finished or when they finish just ask ‘may I continue’.
  10. Keep it simple – When you are speaking to a group, don’t fill in every second with words, vary your speech and keep your messages simple.

Have you ever considered the challenges of being short? Or maybe you are short yourself! You might be surprised at some of the challenges that face those of smaller stature. There are many factors that influence a feeling of inclusion, and being short is one of them.


Research shows that taller men at least are much more likely to be given leadership positions. It is easier for them to “stand out above the crowd”.  When a short woman “takes charge” the nicest comment I have heard is being called a “human dynamo”.  However, many shorter women find it difficult to deliver the “stand out leadership” message that others are expecting from their leaders.  If you review women leaders, many of these women are well above average in height.

See how our global leaders rate in terms of height: http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/oct/18/world-leader-heights-tall


The research also shows that taller people are paid significantly more money. Maybe that is part of the reason for the gender pay gap as most women are shorter than men.  Obviously, this is far from the full story on the gender pay gap.  However, this also links back to our assumptions that “leaders are taller” – and as we know, leaders are paid more.  Like so many biases we hold, awareness allows us to question our assumptions and ensure we override our unconscious thoughts.

Taller people make more money: http://www.livescience.com/5552-taller-people-earn-money.html


When groups of people men and/or women are talking together, the conversation is often conducted at least at the 165cm level. If the group is men, it is likely to be conducted at the 180cm level.  Shorter women, including many women of Asian backgrounds, often feel excluded, or have to make more effort to participate.  If you are tall, perhaps you can suggest sitting down for the discussion or ensuring the shorter members of the group are actively brought in to the conversation.

How voice gives away your height: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2517606/How-voice-gives-away-HEIGHT-Tall-people-lower-tones-shorter-counterparts.html


When making a keynote presentation, there is often a microphone and a lectern provided. Have you ever considered, how someone of 155cm feels almost totally hidden behind a lectern where only the head is visible to the audience?  As we know, communication is over 50% visual and if you can’t see the presenter you may miss many of the visual cues.  I have often balanced on telephone books and used a lapel mike so that I can readily see the audience and they can see me.  And then the microphone, often set for a person 180cm tall and fixed at that height with a screw, has been tightened beyond my capacity to alter it.  If you have asked someone to give a keynote, consider their height as you plan the stage layout.  Similarly, consider how someone of my height will elegantly mount a stool for a panel discussion.

Read about non-verbal communication and height: http://maxatkinson.blogspot.com.au/2009/07/non-verbal-communication-and-height.html

Whatever your height, if you want others to feel included, consider how you can make a difference. Be aware you may be inclined to see more leadership potential in tall people or pay them more!


Diana Ryall is a leading voice and advocate for Gender Equality in Australia. She promotes women achieving their career aspirations, and challenges men to examine their assumptions about women and their careers. In 2002, Diana founded Xplore for Success, a consultancy that specialises in educating and supporting professionals to achieve career and personal success. Over the past 13 years, more than 11,000 women and men have benefited from Xplore’s career development programs, including participants from organisations like American Express, CBA, Deloitte, Department of Commerce, GHD, Lend Lease, Luxottica, KPMG, NAB and QBE.