A few years ago, “power posing” was all the rage.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy became a TED talk legend in 2012 with her presentation promoting the idea that standing in certain postures that are associated with being powerful would lead a person to feel more confident. A confident speaker is a more persuasive and effective public speaker.
But it’s not that simple.
First, some background. Cuddy and two co-authors first suggested power posing in a 2010 paper. The basic idea is that the way you stand and sit can affect your confidence. When you stand or sit slumped over, arms folded or tight against your body, you will feel less confident than if you stand or sit upright. The original argument even went so far as to say that standing in a power pose for as little as two minutes before a presentation can help you feel more confident. One power pose is the “Wonder Woman,” demonstrated by Cuddy in the illustration accompanying this post. Another would be the victory position, with arms thrust upward.
The original research indicated that power posing changes a person’s hormonal levels in a beneficial way.
The problem with the theory is that other scientists have been unable to replicate the research. Some studies have even indicated that power posing has no impact on hormonal levels, and may even have a negative for some people.
Cuddy and power-posing supporters maintain that positive body postures like power posing have reliable beneficial impacts on a person’s confidence and thoughts even if there are no physiological benefits.
In my workshops I explain power posing and I have us all stand up and assume one of the positions for a few minutes. It breaks up the class and seems to put everyone in a better mood. In one two-day workshop, every time a round of presentations was about to begin, a student went to the back of the room before her turn and stood like Wonder Woman for a few minutes. At the end of the workshop she told me it helped her feel much more confident when she got up in front of the class.
Other students have also reported to me that it has helped them.
Should you pretend to be Wonder Woman before a presentation?
In a previous post here, I explained how learning to stand properly would help your public speaking. So yes, I believe you should give power posing a try.
I use it. I stand in the Wonder Woman pose before the start of each workshop. I casually assume the position at the front of the room, partially hidden by the podium, as the class filters in. It not only makes me feel more confident but I think it also conveys confidence to the students who are seeing me for the first time.
My recommendation is that you try power posing before your next few presentations. Do it before you enter the room where you will be speaking. Step into a restroom or private office and adopt the victory pose or Wonder Woman for two minutes. See if it increases your confidence and performance.
If it does, work it into your routine. If it doesn’t, drop it.
Remember always, the way to become a better public speaker is to try different techniques and methods, keep the ones that work for you, and discard the rest. Everyone is different so what works for you might not work for anyone else.