I confess: today I am very calm when I go up on stage to speak – as in this phase of Covid-19, when Zoom is the virtual stage of my home. But, I can assure you, it wasn't always that way. In fact, it was quite the opposite of that.
I've never been much of a public speaker, and up until the day of my first talk seven years ago, I'd only given a few project presentations in college or in my consulting work — and not without stuttering or having to take "water breaks." , admit.
I debuted as a speaker in Salvador, when I was manager of Groupon-BA. The occasion was a digital marketing event, if I'm not mistaken, and they invited me to tell more about the company's experience. If today I feel honored by such invitations, at the time I was terrified. I didn't even want to go, and if it was just for me, maybe I wouldn't have gone at all.
But it was a good opportunity to better present Groupon and facilitate my work, and that of my team in the field, especially to close contracts. Declining the invitation would only be “good” for me, and that bill is never quite fair.
So I went.
I remember seeing my entire team in the front row of the theater, in front of the stage, almost like an organized crowd, but not Bahia or Vitória, depending on which team you support, if you are from Salvador, but Andrea. I felt at that moment the responsibility of a player at the end of a championship!
And as such, I was tense, very tense, minutes before going on stage. Only those who go through this know how it feels to mentally calculate how many minutes we have to run before someone catches up with us, or how likely it is that a meteor will fall outside and, due to the unexpected, the event will be immediately canceled. .
This feeling of uncertainty before a presentation affects everyone, to a greater or lesser degree. There are people who use it as fuel to dominate the stage, there are people who are almost paralyzed with fear. At that time I was part of the second group, trying desperately not to belong there and to be able to move.
That's when I remembered Amy Cuddy's TED Talk, one of the most popular at the event. In this talk, Amy talks about the concept of “power posing”. Fundamentally, the term, developed by her, who is a professor and social psychologist at Harvard, is that standing in a power pose for two minutes can help improve your performance.
This goes for a job interview, where you need to stand out, or a presentation to be made, or even when it's time to get a good leeway during a critical negotiation.
But what is a power pose?
If I say the word “Wonder Woman,” are you more likely to remember her pose with her fists clenched at her waist, noose of truth in her shoulder, staring at you or her at the grocery store or taking a nap?
Superheroes are “masters” at this power pose thing. They are not all the same, but they send the same message: I'm in control. Opening your chest and stretching your arms, raising your arms to celebrate victory, lifting your chin, keeping your spine straight and assuming the air of possession of the situation, all this is a pose of power.
And the coolest thing is this: just like fictional superheroes, who live in a fantasy world and are obviously not in control, we don't need to be either. The magic is all in getting into that vibe, of “faking it until you make it” to look like a relaxed and comfortable person while in control.
Amy Cuddy researched the effects of these power poses and found that these poses, even if practiced out of context for two minutes, are able to trick the brain and make you feel more excited, secure and confident.
The logic behind the theory is this: when you raise your arms in celebration, the brain triggers a surge of testosterone (the dominance hormone) and, at the same time, restricts the production of cortisol (the stress hormone). This combination lessens the feeling of nervousness.
That is, you actually feel victorious and less intimidated. He pretended… and he succeeded.
Fundamentally, what she says is that our body pose not only determines how others see us, but in fact how we see ourselves!
So, in that first lecture, I went to the theater bathroom and practiced a few minutes of power posing before going on stage.
Now you can imagine that I rocked it, putting on an Amy Cuddy-style TED Talk show! But not. In reality, it was more or less, however, for sure, my anxiety decreased and that helped me a lot.
After all, I didn't run around the back or announce a meteor fall fake news… which is an excellent start!
All kidding aside, this tip from Amy was helpful to me in my first talk seven years ago, and it's still helpful today. I practice the power pose whenever I need to, and not just before going on stage: sometimes, during the lecture, I find myself changing my body expression in order to boost my self-confidence.
Body expression in the smallest details
Today, lecturing is my profession, so I can say that I learned a thing or two about body language. In a training I did with Smartalk, a company from Minas that prepares speakers and makes presentations, we got to the point of drawing the trajectory with which I would go on stage: always going horizontally from the back and then, in the middle of the stage, going straight forward until the audience, as if following an imaginary letter L.
It wasn't me who invented it, nor the people at Smartalk. If you fool, it was Justin Timberlake. ;p He and other pop stars do exactly this trajectory in their shows, notice. And it's not a fluke.
There is no doubt that body language is essential for communication, even more so for leaders. As an addict of YouTube channels that analyze body language to identify criminals, unraveling movements in their analysis, I can assure you that this “technique” does not only help those who want to solve crimes.
It also helps those who want to solve problems in the work environment, generate respect and authority “without fear” in those they lead, solve bottlenecks and have a good advantage in negotiations, among many other reasons that affect their ability to lead.
He doubts? Look at these numbers:
– 50% to 80% of all interpersonal communication is non-verbal. There is no doubt that non-verbal communication is impactful and can make or break a message. This type of communication goes far beyond the simple lack of the spoken word: it's hand gestures, eye contact, posture, body movement, and the way we tilt or shake our head.
It's how we present ourselves and how the public welcomes us.
Non-verbal communication plays an important role in conveying intentional and unintentional messages; therefore, it is important to take it seriously.
– The first impression they make of you usually lasts for seven seconds.
In business interactions, first impressions are crucial. Once someone mentally labels you as “trustworthy” or “suspicious”, “powerful” or “submissive”, everything else you do will be seen through that filter.
If someone likes you, they will look for the best in you. If he distrusts you, he will suspect all your actions. While you can't stop people from making snap decisions—the human brain is programmed that way as a survival mechanism—you can understand how to make those decisions work in your favor.
And, finally, relationships of trust are established from the alignment between verbal and non-verbal communication.
Trust is born through a perfect link between what is being said and the body language that accompanies it. If your gestures are not in full congruence with your verbal message, people will unconsciously perceive duplicity, uncertainty, or (at least) internal conflict.
Neuroscientists at Colgate University study the effects of gestures using electroencephalogram (EEG) machines to measure “event-related potentials” from brain waves that form peaks and valleys. One of these valleys occurs when subjects receive gestures that contradict what is said. This is the same brainwave dip that occurs when people hear nonsensical language.
So in a very real way, whenever leaders say one thing and their gestures indicate another, they just don't make sense—and lose their congruence. Whenever your body language doesn’t match your words (e.g., failing to make eye contact and look around the room when trying to convey candor, swaying back when talking about the organization’s solid future, or folding your arms when declaring openness), your verbal message is lost.
Power pose helps build this non-verbal language of control and leadership, but remember: it's what you say that backs it up. Is the way you express yourself, as a leader, in line with your leadership ideal?