Power Posing to Increase Presentation Quality     

Andy Biedlingmaier, Tufts M18 Student on Medical Education Elective

Humans and nonhuman primates use open and expansive postures to convey power.  However, new research shows that these “high-power poses” not only communicate power, they also create it.  Therefore, high-power posing can be used to boost presenter confidence, and consequently improve audience evaluation, during high-stakes presentations.

Tip #1:  Spend at least 2 minutes in a high-power pose prior to a high-stakes evaluation or presentation.

Cuddy, Wilmuth, and Carney (2012) performed an experiment in which 61 Columbia University students were randomly assigned to hold either a high-power (expansive, open) pose or a low-power (contractive, closed) pose prior to performing a mock job interview.  Poses were held initially for 2 minutes, and then for an additional 5 minutes immediately before the interview.  Students assigned to the high-power poses reported feeling significantly more powerful after the interview, and scored significantly higher in terms of overall performance and hireability.  This response is believed to result from hormonal changes, as shown by Carney, Cuddy, and Yap (2010).  In their study, participants randomly assigned to high-power poses for two minutes showed a significant increase in testosterone and decrease in cortisol as compared to the low-power posers.  In fact, the low-power posers showed decreased testosterone and increased cortisol after posing for two minutes.  Additionally, high-power posers rated themselves as feeling more powerful on average, and were more comfortable with risk-taking.

Tip #2:  Use a high-power pose to re-gain control of an audience.

 Hale, Freed, and Ricotta, et al. (2017) suggest that the work by Cuddy and others as described above can be applied strategically to re-assert control over a room, or in handling a “difficult” audience member.  They recommend standing up straight with hands on hips as a method of self-assurance and to signal one’s authority to the crowd as needed.  However, one downfall to this method is that it might not be appropriate when addressing more “senior” audience members.

Overall, the work by Cuddy and others suggests a new understanding of body language.  Our posture can stimulate hormonal pathways that mediate our sense of power.  Harnessing this power through selective use of expansive “high-power” poses can improve performance during high-stakes presentations and may have applications in asserting control over an audience as necessary.

For more information on this topic, please see Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk  

Sources:

Carney, DR, Cudy, AJC, and Yap, AJ.  2010.  Power posing:  brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance.  Pscychol Sci.  21(10):1363-1368.

Cuddy, AJC, Wilmuth, CA, and Carney, DR.  2012.  The benefit of power posing before a high-stakes social evaluation.  Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 13-027.

Hale, AJ, Freed, J, Ricotta, D, et al.  2017.  Twelve tips for effective body language for medical educators. Med Teach.  39(9):914-919.

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