A little bit of nervousness before a speech or interview is a good thing. A lot of nervousness—not so much.

Yet public speaking and media interview skills are essential for most executives and business owners.

If you give a rocky speech in front of potential investors, you might lose their confidence, not to mention their financial support for your business. Communicate poorly to your boss or colleagues, and you may miss opportunities to get buy-in for your ideas. And a poorly handled print or broadcast interview could turn a relatively benign issue into a full-blown crisis.

Which brings us to Talk about Talk, a semi-regular (I’ll share something whenever I find an example from which we can all learn) feature here on the Polaris bog about media interview and presentation skills.

Every Talk about Talk post will focus on an actual interview or presentation that I’ve encountered on my own or someone has pointed out to me. Some will be good and some will be bad. My goal is to use these examples to provide key lessons that will help you improve your performance in the boardroom and in front of the camera.

In today’s post, we’ll take a look at a public speaking hack intended to help improve your presentation skills.

Two-minute public speaking hack

The source of this super simple idea is Amy Cuddy’s 2012 TED Talk entitled “Your body language shapes who you are.” Cuddy is a social psychologist and Associate Professor at Harvard Business School.

In her TED Talk, Cuddy shares a powerful method for boosting your confidence just before that important presentation, job interview or business meeting. Prior to the event, take 2 minutes to “power pose” – that is, to make yourself physically bigger. Techniques include stretching out, putting your hands above your head and lifting your chin.

According to Cuddy’s research, the act of “faking” body postures actually changes your hormone levels. A 2-minute power pose creates an average 20% increase in testosterone levels and a 25% decrease in cortisol, a stress hormone.

Impressive stuff.


On the other hand, adopting a low-power pose, which involves making yourself physically smaller, decreases testosterone levels by 10% and increases cortisol by 15%.

In short, when you make yourself look more powerful, you cause yourself to feel and actually become more powerful. Not only that, you’ll start to perform better in stressful situations. As Cuddy quips, “don’t fake it until you make it, fake it ‘til you become it.”

If you’re skeptical, Cuddy’s research isn’t just a lab exercise. In her TED Talk, she confides her personal story of overcoming insecurities about public speaking in her post-grad studies and shares an anecdote about a student she encouraged to “fake it until you become it.”

Cuddy shows us how tiny tweaks can lead to big changes. She encourages everyone to try a power pose and share the science with those who need it most: the ones with no resources, no technology and no status or power.

Here’s the short, 6-minute version of Cuddy’s TED Talk:

And if you want to view the entire 18-minute talk check it out HERE.