As marketing professionals, we are almost always asked to give presentations. Whether it’s a sales pitch or sharing our expertise with a group of business professionals, you could say we are quite seasoned. However, even with all that experience, we’re constantly looking for ways to become more confident when talking about what we love. After much research and coffee drinking, here's a secret we’ve picked up and wanted to share, in order to help you prepare for your next presentation or meeting.
If you search “most watched Ted Talks of all time,” Amy Cuddy’s presentation entitled “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” will appear second with over 36 million views and counting.
You may be wondering, what’s so special about her presentation? What is it that has made her video the second most popular Ted Talk of all time? Maybe it’s her touching personal story of perseverance and survival, or maybe it’s because she discusses how our human nature can sometimes cause more harm than good. “Why” her video is so successful may be up for debate, but the impact of her message is undeniable, which is why I’ve outlined a few of the significant takeaways from her presentation.
The Downfalls of Human Behavior
When it comes to body language, we constantly receive messages on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour, and minute-by-minute basis, whether we realize it or not. And, likewise, we’re sending these messages ourselves. Sometimes, these signals can get crossed when a message is “sent” unintentionally.
For example, imagine you’re giving a presentation in front of a really big client. You’ve been preparing for weeks and really want to nail it. However, during the pitch, your nerves get the best of you, so you stand with your arms folded and back hunched, unaware of these actions and just trying to make it to the end. At the conclusion of the meeting, you feel satisfied that you presented all of your best talking points to the client, despite how incredibly nervous you were. The next day, you get an email from the client that says they are declining your services but they thank you for your time. Now, you're left wondering what exactly went wrong.
Amy Cuddy says, “people are influenced by non-verbals … and non-verbals govern how others feel about us.” Therefore, there’s a good chance that what the client was receiving during the meeting instead of your amazing talking points, was that you were closed off or disinterested. Ultimately, your behavior (subconscious or not) cost you the job.
What Is Power Posing? Using Nonverbal Cues to Gain Advantage. (psychologytoday.com)
Power posing can even be found in the animal kingdom as a way to assert power and dominance over territory or around others.
The Science Behind Power Posing
“Our bodies change our minds, our minds change our behavior, and our behavior changes outcomes.” - Amy Cuddy Social Psychologist
As a social psychologist, Amy knew that nonverbal behaviors can influence how others think of us. But, could they also influence how we think of ourselves? She sought to answer this question in the 2010 study she conducted with a few of her associates, “High Power” body language vs. “Low Power” body language. During this study, people were asked to assume high powered/dominating position for a period of two minutes or more while another group assumed powerless positions.
After two minutes, each subject’s saliva was tested. The finding concluded that those who held the high powered/dominating positions had higher testosterone and lower cortisol levels, whereas people who demonstrated powerless positions had lower testosterone and higher cortisol levels. Therefore, these hormone levels (i.e. higher testosterone and lower cortisol) left a person feeling an increased sense of confidence while simultaneously having a decreased sense of anxiety. Amy took these finding to further proved her notion that assuming a “power pose” can, on a hormonal level, influence how we feel about ourselves and therefore, can have the power to change our lives.
Fake It Till You Become It
“Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.” -Amy Cuddy Social Psychologist
At times, our behaviors are on a subconscious level, but there are steps we can take to bring awareness to our bodies.
- Stand up: A simple technique yes, but also very effective. Standing up commands the attention of the people around you, making you the focus of the room.
- Make yourself as big as possible: Keeping your chest open while power posing allows you to assert your dominance, whether in a meeting, presentation, or interview. You can do this by standing up and leaning over a table or spreading your arms out to the chair next to you.
- When all else fails, pretend you’re Wonder Woman: Standing with your feet apart, with your hands on your hips, and raising your chest may feel strange at first. But when you think of a basic power pose, this is it. Celebrities, politicians, and CEO’s alike have adopted this method of power posing for their day-to-day lives.
Before a big event or presentation, hold a “power pose” for at least two minutes, and BAM instant confidence. In only two minutes, you can literally change your body chemistry and in turn affect your behavior, confidence levels, and ability to handle stress. And remember what Amy says, “Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.”