Having a presentation on stage

Why your posture could be damaging your career

In Body languageby maria

You’re ten minutes away from the biggest presentation you’ve ever had to deliver at work. One hundred pairs of eyes will be looking at you and judging every word you say and every move you make.

What do you do in the next ten minutes to overcome your fears and ace your presentation?

You’re probably familiar with the physical impacts of poor posture. When you’re sat or stood in a position that your body doesn’t really like it tells you about it. It’s the soreness you feel in your lower back or the tightness in your neck and shoulders.
But what about the emotional impacts of poor posture? Our brains and our bodies are inextricably connected. Psychologists call it embodied cognition. The belief that the the mind is not only connected to the body but that the body influences the mind. It’s a two-way street. When we sit or stand in sub-optimal positions we can experience feelings of negativity, but when we are more upright we feel more positive.
The case for sitting and standing tall

Man sitting in a good posture with Posture flexiIn a 2015 study 74 participants were asked to hold either a slumped or upright seated posture. Their backs were then strapped with physiotherapy tape to hold their postures. Participants were asked to complete a number of tasks whilst being monitored for feelings of self-esteem along with blood pressure and heart rate. Participants who remained upright reported higher self-esteem, better mood, and lower fear, compared to the slumped participants. Slumped participants even used more negative language and fewer words during speech. In a another study in 2009, 71 college students were asked to either ‘sit up straight’ or ‘sit slouched forward’.

While holding their posture, the students were asked to list either three positive or negative personal traits they thought would contribute to their future job satisfaction and professional performance. The students were then asked rate themselves on how well they thought they would perform as a future professional. Those who were in the upright position believed in the positive and negative traits they wrote down while those in the slouched over position weren’t convinced of their positive or negative traits.

These types of studies provide strong evidence that when we are in more upright and open postures we behave and think quite differently than when we are slumped.

Power posing

Amy Cuddy’s popular 2012 TED talk, also focused on the power that your body can have on your own feelings. The social psychologist suggested power posing (think of standing like a superhero) as the way to overcome challenging situations, like presenting to a crowd of people. She claimed that power posing created positive feelings and even changed hormones in the body.

However, whilst Cuddy’s claims of hormonal changes as a result of power posing have been called into question (no one could replicate her original study’s results). There is now further research backing up Cuddy’s original claims that power posing can (at the very least) invoke feelings of powerfulness. Her latest paper published earlier this year in Psychological Science, provides evidence that power posing makes people feel more self-assured. All good stuff if you want to get better at presenting, behave more confidently in front of clients and not crack under the pressure of an interview.

Never tried power posing before? Have a go right now. Stand with your feet spread wide and your hands on your hips. Relax your shoulders and lift up through your head with your eyes looking towards the horizon. Hold the pose for a couple of minutes. You should feel more confident, positive and even fearless - just like a superhero.

An alternative to power posing

Get into the habit of checking out your posture more frequently. Are your shoulders relaxed and down away from your ears? Is your spine lengthened (imagine a piece of string is attached to the top of your head and is pulling you gently upwards)? Using these cues regularly will help you to improve your posture and help you feel more confident.

You can make this easier by using an active posture reminder, like our Posture Flexi.  It'll help you get your shoulders in their relaxed position and tighten to remind you everytime you start to slouch.

And finally
So; back to that presentation you need to deliver in front of one hundred people. What would you do in the ten minutes beforehand? We say strike a power pose. Your career will thank you for it.