In this post, I will share the learnings about body language that my professor taught me at Stanford University. Hopefully upon reading it once (or twice), you'll also understand how you need to stand when speaking in front of an audience, or networking in a room with other people.
Don't cross your arms.
It immediately associates with being closed off, unfriendly, and in extreme cases; angry. Crossing arms may be relaxing but it is definitely not going to be rewarding.
Don't put your hands in your pocket.
This looks like you are hiding something, and in extreme cases can look like you're playing with something. It might be your "go to thing" to stop them from swinging around, but I assure you it doesn't work so make it your "don't go there thing".
Don't swing your hands.
Don't fidget with your hands, tap your feet or excessively play with your hair. Any major movements unrelated to using your hands to convey a stronger message are a distraction. And distractions will lead to bad reactions.
Don't put your hands behind your back.
The first association that comes to mind is that it looks like you have been arrested. This position also causes people to wonder what you are hiding. So if your hands are behind you, chances are people aren't paying attention in front of you.
Don't even think about leaning on a table.
Whether you want to give your legs a break from standing up for too long or its just how you awkwardly stand - get it out of your system. No-one wants to listen or talk to you if you can't hold yourself together standing tall.
So here it is. Where do you hands and arms go presenting or at networking events? Straight down!
When standing around at an event if you want to look approachable and friendly you should have your arms down the side of your body. When presenting, this works the best too because it's the easiest position where your arms and hands can come out to play to emphasize your strongest points to an audience. When you're done, let them hang free and long again. It may feel weird at first, but just look at any professional speaker — it's the best way. No crossing, hiding, or distracting, just straight down and on the side of your body.