How this 2 minute trick will elevate your confidence

Frankie Kemp

1 November 2012

Stress levels and power poses

Amy Cuddy a social psychologist lecturing at Harvard Business School, has proven that you can fake it until you become it.  In experiments conducted with Dana Carney, she proved that striking ‘power poses’ for just 2 minutes before an interview, can increase the projection of self-confidence and the chances of being hired.  This is basically how the experiment went:

1)    Subjects had to prepare a 5 minute presentation about their dream job before a job interview, in which they were to be evaluated, filmed and hired on the strength of how they appeared on camera.  At this point, some people develop shingles…

2)    They then had to convince 2 evaluators why they thought they were suited to this dream job without lying or misrepresentation.  If you think this is stressful, hold on, it gets worse.

3)    The evaluators were trained to show no non-verbal expression.  This would usually spike the stress hormone, cortisol.  For many, this is like sinking in ‘social quicksand’;

4)    The interview was filmed and watched by two further evaluators who assessed the performance of the interviewees, or masochists, whichever term you find more accurate.

Interviewee Preparation:

5)    Apart from the requirement of remaining conscious throughout, the interviewees prepared the speech and were then split into two groups.  There was the control group and one that performed 2 minute ‘power posing exercises’, holding 2 such postures for a total of 180 seconds.

All exercises were performed before the interview, rather so that interviewees weren’t labelled insane…


Those that were chosen by the evaluators, who were totally unaware of the interviewee preparation and control group, were those that stuck the power poses before the meeting.  Now, that doesn’t mean that the power posers walked in like cowboys or Wonderwomen.  What happened was that they simply manifested a comfort in their own skin, and real zest.

It is these latter two factors, that further research has shown, that are the sole qualities that can win pitches.  Content matters of course, but it pales into less significance in the presence of a lack of awkwardness and the presence of enthusiasm.

What this means for your Pitches, Presentations and Interviews:

Preparing for even 2 minutes before a pitch, presentation or interview can change your behaviour.  Here’s how you do it:

  1. Take yourself to a toilet cubicle or any such private space before you present, go into a meeting or whatever the encounter happens to be.
  2. Think about how you want to feel during that forthcoming session.  It could be confidence or freedom.  One of my clients used to horse jump and she wanted to evoke the regal sense of control she had when doing so.
  3. Now see, hear and feel the situation around you that is connected to that desired feeling.
  4. Embody yourself in it: how are you sitting or standing?
  5. Enjoy that for 2 mins.
  6. If you want to change position, ensure it’s another moment which plugs into how you want to feel.

NB. don’t embody that during the forthcoming event.  For example, if you’re sitting like this, it won’t go down too well.

However, trust that the hormone change will make you feel more in control and exude greater self assurance.

These small tweaks will create big changes in your behaviour, which in turn, will create different outcomes, so your body language can, in the most subtle of ways, change your life.

For more information and illustrations of power poses, see Amy Cuddy’s 17 minute video below.  At 11:11 mins, she talks about the interview experiment.


POST SCRIPT:   Since presenting Power Poses at TED, Amy Cuddy was catapulted to fame, then to notoriety as she was slated for the veracity of her research.

Such was the hostility in academia towards Cuddy, that even her colleagues involved with the study disassociated themselves from it.

However, I knew it worked then and am even more certain of the technique since Cuddy has put the theory through measures that exceed the methods usually used in such research, going beyond her critics’ criteria.

Along with that, came a rebrand and she now calls the technique ‘Postural Feedback’.

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