How to get into the Boardroom

The Economist reported in 2014 that stereotypes predominate in the boardroom where “The typical chief executive is more than 6 feet tall, has a deep voice, a good posture, a touch of grey in his thick lustrous hair and, for his age, a fit body”

As in gorilla societies, “Power belongs to silverback males”

Whether this is true or not, right or wrong, I’m not judging. However, the second most popular TED talk is on Power Poses, so some people must believe it.

So just in case this is true, what are the non-verbal signals we need to give when presenting or appearing in public:

Your position

  • The ideal position is at the front and central to the audience so you can see each person
  • Visual aids go to either side.
  • Give yourself time to organise and get your surroundings as ideal as possible.
  • Be in control of your environment.

Your stance

  • Feet: hip width apart, toes pointing slightly outwards
  • Hips: square and evenly balanced
  • Body: square on to your audience
  • Hands: when not gesturing keep them relaxed and by your sides
  • Avoid: pacing, fidgeting, crossing arms and legs, grinding heel into the floor
  • If you move, move for a purpose rather than for self-comfort.


  • Release nervous energy through constructive gestures.  Make them the right size for the size of your audience – typically from the shoulders and releasing your elbows from your sides.
  • Rapport gestures build relationships, reinforce attention and focus eye contact.
  • Descriptive gestures reinforce your words, strengthen the message and heighten visual memory recall

Eye Contact

  • Randomise eye contact across audience
  • Don’t miss anyone out – particularly those on the edge of the group
  • Move eye contact with the rhythm and punctuation of your words – “one phrase, one person”
  • Be flexible and develop your peripheral vision; you will gather more information and reduce nerves


  • Use body movements to increase tonality in the voice – expansive gestures help increase emphasis and tonal marking
  • Breathe and speak from the diaphragm, this is the best source of vocal resonance for projection and pitch
  • Use the pause – ironically, saying nothing can be the best way to create impact and gain attention
  • Be aware of the question, statement and command tonalities in your voice
  • Vary the speed of your voice to be in alignment with your message and your audience

Back to our stereotypical Chief Executive – I’ve no chance. I only just qualify for 2 of those descriptions, and I’ll leave it to you to guess which ones.