Why might speakers cross their legs on stage?

By Laura Bergells on
standing with legs crossed while presenting

A woman stands on stage. She’s got her head down as she reads from her index cards. She’s tugging at her scarf and hair with her left hand. Her voice trembles and shakes. Then, she crosses her legs as she stands.

If you talk to many body language experts, they’ll tell you that crossing your legs while standing is a sign that you’re comfortable. But in this case, it’s not. The woman is nervous.

But why do we see anxious speakers cross their legs on stage? Isn’t leg-crossing supposed to be a sign that they’re comfortable with their audiences?

Consider the context. When you see a lot of other behaviors that signal fear – head down, trembling voice, and self-soothing gestures like playing with scarves and hair – the cross-legged stance can be considered yet another form of pacifying behavior.

It’s also a pose. Crossed legs are meant to signal comfort to the audience.

However, standing while crossing your legs isn’t an ideal posture when you’re delivering a talk. It can prevent you from getting the full breath support you need. It can contribute to your trembling voice.

Worse – standing cross legged while you’re nervous makes it look like you’ve got to pee!

If you find yourself standing cross-legged on stage, uncross. Widen your stance. Look up at your audience. Smile and take a breath.

You’ve got this.