Give Yourself the Gift of Presence

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What’s an upside to waking up in the middle of the night?

Here’s one: when a pre-ordered book from Amazon downloads after midnight on the publishing date.

A Christmas gift arrived early this week with Amy Cuddy‘s new book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.

You may have been among the 30 million views of her TED talk, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.

If so, you know about “power posing.”

When you’re facing a challenge – whether it’s a big presentation or a job interview or an everyday interaction – strike a powerful pose for 2 minutes. Making your body big will make your mind feel more confident.

Two years ago I tried this for the first time. I was planning our Chairman’s annual leadership meeting. As I was meeting with my boss to finalize the agenda, he suggested I should speak at the meeting.

WH-A-A-A-T?

The terror and excitement of speaking before 200 of my leadership peers fought a valiant duel. In my mind. In seconds. And then I said, “Sure, I’d be glad to speak.”

The opportunity won out over the fear. But now I had to perform. And it had better be good.

I began with the usual speaking preparation I would bring to any C-suite leader in my role at the time leading corporate communications.

The topic? Leading Communications.

Or, how my fellow leaders could lead communications among their teams, cascading leadership meeting messages across the enterprise.

And perhaps not so coincidentally, it’s also the original title of this blog.

The brainstorming, writing and practicing began. The weekend before the event I set up my iPhone to record myself giving the presentation in the meeting room.

Two days before the event, I did a dry run for a few colleagues and team members.

And it it fell painfully flat. No connection. No spark. No magic.

They were nice about it. But their body language spoke louder than any words of encouragement ever could.

There were still 48 hours to redeem myself.

I remembered the time Mark Cuban came to speak at our company in the early 2000s. He drove all night to get there. He was friendly and engaging with our employees.

Most memorable were his words about client meetings and commitments. A client would ask for something, and the group would agree it would be delivered the next day.

Later, Mark and his colleagues would look at each other and say they had no idea how to do what they’d just committed to. But they had all night to figure it out. And figure it out, they did. Time and time again.

If they could do it, so could I.

Picking myself up off the metaphorical floor, I got to work. I revised my speech so it focused more on the audience. And what was in it for them.

But what made the most difference on the day of my speech was the simple, yet powerful advice of Amy Cuddy in her TED talk.

It was to adopt the Wonder Woman pose for 2 minutes, before my speech.

The only problem?

My talk was right after a few other speakers, so I couldn’t  power pose in private, as Cuddy recommends. So I did the next best thing. I took up as much space as I could, without violating too many social norms.

I sat up straight. I stretched out one of my arms across an adjoining chair. I put another hand on my hip. I planted my feet solidly on the floor. I took deep breaths.

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The audience body language post speech? Smiles. Applause. Fist bumps.

Yes, power posing really works.

Two of my work colleagues screened Cuddy’s TED talk at a Lean In circle last year. It was a great session, with ideas like jumping into group conversations one beat after the current speaker’s last word.

So I couldn’t wait for Presence when it came out this week. I wanted to know more secrets to bringing my best self to the challenges of life.

What is presence? Cuddy defines it as “the state of being attuned to and able to comfortably express our true thoughts, feelings, value and potential.”

And what did I find? A well-researched, highly entertaining, inspiring and actionable book. Most of all, it reminded me to do the following:

  1. Start each day with a power pose
  2. Stand up straight
  3. Take up space
  4. Breathe deeply
  5. Share the power of presence with others.

The book also underscores the importance of personal power – an infinite resource that’s always available to you. It’s yours for the taking.

As Cuddy describes personal power, “it’s about access to and control of limitless inner resources, such as our skills and abilities, our deeply held values, our true personalities and our boldest selves.”

As a new year dawns, I hope you’ll bring your boldest self.

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Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, Social Media Savvy for Corporate Professionals, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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