Presentation Skills and Power Posing

My first substantial conference presentation at the 2013 AEESP conference in July 2013. Before that, my experience was limited to a few short department seminars and guest lectures. The biggest difference this time around was my audience, and an audience full of noteworthy environmental engineering professors only raised the stakes (and my nerves!) for my presentation.

As someone who has always struggled with stage fright, this presentation was no minor walk in the park for me. I did everything to be well prepared – made slides well in advance, practiced on my own, practiced with my group, and minimized stress leading up to the event.  When I finally had to take the stage, the nerves finally set in along with a shaky voice and a blank mind. Luckily after the first 5 minutes I was able to get in the groove and the rest of the presentation was much stronger.

Having a strong, confident presence that commands your audience’s attention is one of the most important components of any presentation. So while I gave a satisfactory presentation this time around, I know that I have a lot of room for improvement. One great presentation confidence boosting tactic I have come across is best described in one of my all-time favorite TED talks. In this video, Amy Cuddy explains the importance of body language in communicating our thoughts and ideas, and how small purposeful changes in our body language can affect the messages we convey to others.   It also has a stunningly powerful message to anyone whose confidence has been shaken by a feeling that they cannot succeed and how to “fake it ‘til you make it.”

Clearly, confidence is the keystone to situations such as job interviews or presentations. It stems from both strong beliefs in one’s abilities (i.e. the quality of the research being presenting, qualifications for a job, etc.) and a deeper level of personal ideas that affects one’s very hormonal profile in a stressful situation. Power posing is gaining acceptance, particularly in business settings, as a way to boost assertive behaviors and command the attention of your audience. So in addition to practicing and reviewing my research as deeply as possible, there’s a good chance you may catch me power posing right before my next high-profile presentation.


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