Recap: The “Power Posing” backlash

power posing

We know our mind can change our body, but can our body change our mind? According to Amy Cuddy, and other researchers before her, it absolutely can.
We admire Amy Cuddy; we show her Ted Talk, discuss her book Presence, and reference power posing during our workshops. We see tremendous value in what she’s made accessible to the public: the ability to use our body to effectively change our state of mind.
Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk is one of the most-watched, with almost 40 million views. She’s received praise for her work on body language from all over the world. Recently, Dana Carney, co-author of the 2010 study that brought power posing to prominence, came forward to denounce the study itself, calling it flawed and announcing that she didn’t think the power posing effect was legitimate.
We’ve received many questions about this since professor Carney came forward with her statement, and we believe it is imperative that we examine both the allegations themselves and Amy Cuddy’s response.

What Dana Carney said

Dana Carney came forward in September 2016 and expressed the following, which was supported by a full statement:
“1. I do not have any faith in the embodied effects of ‘power poses.’ I do not think the effect is real.
2. I do not study the embodied effects of power poses.
3. I discourage others from studying power poses.
4. I do not teach power poses in my classes anymore.
5. I do not talk about power poses in the media and haven’t for over 5 years (well before skepticism set in)
6. I have on my website and my downloadable CV my skepticism about the effect and links to both the failed replication by Ranehill et al. and to Simmons & Simonsohn’s p-curve paper suggesting no effect. And this document.”

She drew these conclusions by acknowledging some flaws in the research design. For example, Carney mentions that too many people involved in the study were aware of the hypothesis, and this may have impacted how people performed during the study itself (i.e. by showing an unconscious bias).

What Amy Cuddy said

Amy Cuddy made her surprise known when Carney’s allegations began to surface. Specifically, Cuddy stated:
“The key finding, the one that I would call ‘the power posing effect,’ is simple: adopting expansive postures causes people to feel more powerful. Since my coauthors and I first published our evidence, this effect has been replicated in at least nine published studies and in at least four unpublished studies from nine different labs.”
She and her team conducted a systematic review and statistical analysis of power posing studies, and found evidence that adopting expansive postures, or “power posing,” does increase feelings of power. In addition, Cuddy hired a statistician at Harvard to conduct an independent audit of the 2010 research study. You can find that analysis here.
Cuddy also stated that when speaking now about power posing, she highlights what she believes are the strongest effects, and those which have yet to be determined:
“…while I am confident about the key power posing effect on feelings of power and the overall evidential value of the literature, I am agnostic about the effects of expansive posture on hormones. The jury is still out. We have conflicting evidence, which is fascinating and means it could go either way.”

What CCI says

Upon reading both Carney’s comments, as well as Cuddy’s response, CCI has formed a clear opinion on the matter.
We often engage in power posing ourselves – before workshops, seminars and keynotes – and can say with confidence that power posing works, for us, by increasing our confidence and ease when we present. Based on this fact alone, power posing holds tremendous value within our organization, and is the basis for us wanting to spread the word to our clients and participants.
Think about the animal kingdom and how many species engage in ‘power posing’ to exert dominance or increase confidence: gorillas beat their chests to intimidate; grizzly’s stand on their two hind legs to appear large and aggressive; peacocks open their beautiful feathers wide to attract a mate. And then, of course, there’s Tarzan!
Positive effects of power posing can be seen everywhere, even on Wall Street, where “fearless girl” stands tall in her power pose, defiant against the raging bull that faces her. This is an extraordinary, and timely, personification of the “power” of poser posing. When looking at “fearless girl,” the power of body language cannot go unnoticed: the message would be entirely different should the girl be standing, slouching, and with her hands by her sides. You can tell, by looking at her face, that she feels powerful.
Everybody and every body is different, and power posing may work for some and not others. We suggest that before discounting it based on Carney’s reaction, try it for yourself, and see how it makes you feel.

Body Language Presentation Tips to Fire Up Your Audience

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Photo Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

The right or WRONG body language can make or break a presentation. Whether you’re on or off the stage, using the right body language is critical to your presentation or communication success.

You might only be verbally articulating so much, but a lot of what you don’t say can be conveyed through your body language.

So what are body language presentation skills? What do I mean when I say you must use the “right” body language in a presentation?

You might have a great speech but how you deliver it matters. What tone you’re speaking in, your physical activity level, your movement and energy levels around the stage, how many times you smile, nod, gesture with your hands ad make eye contact with audience members – all this and more counts towards your presentation body language skills.

Carol Kinsey, leadership communication coach, offers 7 vital tips on body language presentation and communication below:

1. Manage your stress level

While you are waiting backstage, notice the tension in your body. Realize that some nervous energy is a good thing – it’s what makes your presentation lively and interesting, but too much stress results in nonverbal behaviors that work against you.

Before you go on stage, stand or sit with your weight “centered” – evenly distributed on both feet or sit bones. Look straight ahead with your chin level to the floor and relax your throat. Take several deep “belly” breaths. Count slowly to six as you inhale and increase the tension in your body by making fists and tensing the muscles in your arms torso and legs. As you exhale, allow your hands, arms and body to release and relax.

2. Get emotional

In order to engage an audience, they need to be emotionally involved. So before you go on stage to deliver your message, concentrate on emotions and feelings. How do you personally emotionally connect with what you are about to say? What do you feel about it? How do you want the audience to feel? (The more you focus on the emotion behind your message, the more convincing and congruent your body language will automatically become.)

3. Make a confident entrance

Staying relaxed, walk out on stage with good posture, head held high, and a steady, smooth gait. When you arrive at center stage, stop, smile, raise your eyebrows and slightly widen your eyes while you look around the room. A relaxed, open face and body tells your audience that you’re confident and comfortable with the information you’re delivering. Since audience members will be reacting to any display of tension, your state of comfort will also relax and reassure them. (This may sound like common sense, but I once worked with a manager who walked onstage with hunched shoulders, a furrowed brow and squinted eyes. I watched the audience squirm in response. It was an unsettling way to begin a “let’s get together and support this change” speech.)

4. Maintain eye contact

Maintain steady eye contact with the audience throughout the talk. If you don’t, you will quickly signal that you don’t want to be there, that you aren’t really committed to your message, or that you have something to hide.

While it is physically impossible to maintain eye contact with the entire audience all the time, you can look at specific individuals or small groups, hold their attention briefly, and then move to another group or individual in another part of the room.

5. Ditch the lectern

Get out from behind the lectern. A lectern not only covers up the majority of your body, it also acts as a barrier between you and the audience. Practice the presentation so well that you don’t need to read from a script. If you use notes, request a video prompter at the foot of the stage.

6. Talk with your hands

Speakers use hand gestures to underscore what’s important and to express feelings, needs and convictions. When people are passionate about what they are saying, their gestures become more animated. That’s why gestures are so critical and why getting them right in a presentation connects so powerfully with an audience. If you don’t use them (if you let your hands hang limply to your sides or clasp them in the classic “fig leaf” position), it suggests you don’t recognize the crucial issues, you have no emotional investment in the issues, or that you’re not an effective communicator.

7. Move

Human beings (males, most especially) are drawn to movement. Movement keeps an audience from becoming bored. It can be very effective to walk toward the audience before making an important point, and away when you want to signal a break or a change of subject. But don’t move when you are making a key point. Instead, stop, widen your stance, and deliver that important message.

Understand that a well-written speech is only half as important. Effective speakers and oraters are masters of using personal stories and humour, motivating along with the perfect body language presentation skills.

Are you ready to fire up your audience? Click here to learn more about developing your body language presentation skills.