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Channeling Your Inner Superhero

Pop Art Matilda

When was the last time you posed like a superhero?

It’s probably been awhile, if you can even remember the last time you adopted one of the classic superhero stances: legs apart and feet planted, hands on hips, back straight, gaze straight and level.

I hadn’t been paying much attention to superhero poses myself (despite having a young toddler at home). But a recent TedX talk by John Marcotte, founder of Heroic Girls, highlighted a Harvard teams’ research that can be helpful not just for girls and women, but for anyone in high-stakes presentation situations.

Here at Logos, we’re often asked to help individuals and leaders prepare for a wide range of high-stakes presentations and public interactions. We’ve worked with individuals to prepare for everything from media interviews, board presentations, technical or financial road shows, investor pitches, congressional and regulatory testimony, employee videoconferences, even individual job interviews. Sometimes the stakes are highest with just an audience of one; sometimes the individual is presenting or speaking to thousands (or millions, on TV). So this particular piece of research caught our eye in terms of how it might be able to help individuals facing these high-stakes situations.

The study, “The Benefit of Power Posing Before a High-Stakes Social Evaluation,” by Amy J.C. Cuddy, Caroline Wilmuth, and Dana R. Carvey, involved researching a behavior conducted BEFORE an actual presentation, not during the presentation itself, an interesting distinction. And the effects of this behavior – taken before the presentation even began – were measureable.

As the researchers noted, “In the moments before walking into high-stakes social evaluation many people shrink in their chairs and hunch over their phones, adopting nonverbal postures that can cause them to feel even more powerless (Carney, Cuddy, & Yap, 2010). But what if people did the opposite – stretching out and occupying more space, rather than slouching and taking up less?”

The research team asked one group of study participants to stand in a superhero pose, what they called a “high-power pose,” for two minutes before beginning a presentation, and another group to stand in a “low-power pose” for two minutes before beginning a presentation. “The high-power posers, in contrast to low-power posers, appeared to better maintain their composure, project more confidence, and present more captivating and enthusiastic speeches, in turn leading to higher overall performance evaluations.” This was true even though the audience hadn’t actually seen the poses adopted before the interaction began, and true even though the “power pose” didn’t affect body posture during the presentation itself.

In his TedX talk, John Marcotte highlights additional benefits of this stance: “If you pose like a superhero for just two minutes, your power hormone testosterone rises by 8%. If you pose like a superhero for just two minutes, your stress hormone, cortisol, drops by 25%. And most importantly, if you pose like a superhero for just two minutes, you will find yourself more likely to take a risk. So pretending to be a superhero, even in a small and insignificant way, makes us act more like a superhero in real life.”

Or as the Harvard researchers say, “Preparatory power posing might serve as a simple, free tool that has the potential to be adopted by and beneficial to almost anyone.”

So the next time you’re facing a high-stakes presentation or interaction, take just two minutes beforehand to channel your inner superhero. You might just fly.

Worth Reading, Apr 23, 2012

 

A few useful research reports have been published in the last two weeks, in addition to the usual interesting commentary that caught our eye.

  • Pew Internet on “Digital Differences”: The Pew Research Center summarizes the findings by saying, “One-in-five [American] adults do not use the internet. The difference between that group and the majority of Americans who do go online remains strongly correlated with age, education, and household income, which are the strongest positive predictors of internet use.” The full report is here. This is helpful research to remember when thinking about communicating with audiences, and one question to ask in communication planning: who might your organization be missing and how can they be reached if not through online means?
  • Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report: NTEN, Common Knowledge and Blackbaud released the “2012 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report,” its 4th annual report on how nonprofits are using social networks. Additional analysis and data highlights in a guest post on Beth’s Blog.
  • Pulitzers and Online Reporting: The Nieman Journalism Lab blog has a good analysis of the impact and effects of online journalism in this year’s winners.
  • Why Is Trust in Media Falling?: Jay Rosen breaks down the question of why Americans have such low trust in media today, asking “What Explains Falling Confidence in the Press?
  • Local News: Despite lower trust in media overall, most Americans still turn to local news sources. Pew’s recently released study on local news found that “72% of Americans follow local news closely,” and the report details additional media consumption habits of this group.
  • USC Annenberg Gap Study: USC Annenberg published its “Communication and Public Relations Generally Accepted Practices (GAP VII)” study, on the “current state of the PR industry.” A helpful breakdown of key findings and what they mean for corporate communicators and agencies is also on PR Squared.
  • On Reputation: A thought-provoking article from the Economist on corporate reputation is worth reading, “What’s in a name? Why companies should worry less about their reputations.” Not surprisingly, many disagree, and Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross has a thoughtful response on her blog.
  • Corrections and Broadcast TV: David Carr of the New York Times commented on the curious disparity in how broadcast news handles corrections versus print news, in light of how NBC handled the correction to its use of an audio clip on the Today show that was “misleading, incendiary and dead-bang wrong.”
  • The Navy and Twitter: The US Navy was a recent victim of self-inflicted harm, when someone mistakenly sent a personal tweet from the Navy’s official Twitter account. However, the damage was contained early and was minimal, and they shared some lessons learned from the incident.