Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The benefits of power posing

In the past week, I’ve experienced an intriguing and bittersweet revelation.

I had two presentations last week: One was an informal and short magazine project presentation in front of about nine people, the other was a 10-minute professional public relations presentation in front of at least 15 strangers who share different majors.

The first presentation — the informal one — went horribly. I trembled and my heart was racing to the point where I thought I may pass out. I was in front of only a few people, most of whom I had met before. They looked fascinated by my project, but I couldn’t help thinking they were more interested in the unique form of embarrassment in which I placed myself.

A day later, I had my second presentation. I had to dress up, have content memorized and act as someone reviewing the public relations standpoints of a big company. I did well, was confident and had an immense amount of pride for what I accomplished in those 10 minutes. I was relieved but confused as to how I was able to accomplish this great feat given the horrible anxiety attack the day before.

The scientific term for what I experienced during my first presentation is called glossophobia, or speech anxiety, which are basically fancier words for fear of public-speaking.

I read on, a site focused on speaking with confidence, that most social phobias, regardless of which type they are, stem from shyness in childhood.

I was perplexed by this fact. I’ve always been outspoken, both in person and online, within my small circle of friends. Though I knew I possessed these gregarious traits, when under the spotlight, my wild, outgoing spirit always seemed to diminish. I never considered that I had grown up as a “shy” kid and was often considered the opposite from most of my teachers. I also have both ADD and ADHD, making me both a hyperactive and unfocused individual.
I consider myself more of an introvert now in my adult life. I post more on social media than I say out loud, and I tend to be a recluse in social situations. I’ve heard that some public-speaking difficulties can also originate from low self-esteem, which could be true for me.

According to, more people have glossophobia than negrophobia (fear of death), and glossophobia still remains the most prevalent phobia. I found that statistic alarming, but I could definitely understand it more, as I had experienced intense anxiety the day before my presentations.

I’ve had glossophobia for awhile, but I sensed something might have changed the day I did well because of how amazing I felt and how comfortably I was able to speak. What I did seem to know was that in my first presentation, I went second-to-last and my anxiety had built up to an astounding boiling point.

My second presentation went better in part to a concept I now know as “power-posing.” While I stood there and measured up my audience, I felt like I could walk, breathe, think and talk normally. I felt assured that I could do a good job, and I had time to gather myself before my professor had arrived.

I credit the idea of “power posing” to Amy Cuddy, a Harvard professor and researcher, who gave a TED Talk called “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” in which she explained a two-minute method that can help improve confidence and public speaking skills. Power posing is a body language pose that makes you “look big and strong.” I felt like as I was standing up there, above all the people in my class I hardly knew, I was invincible.

I encourage those with glossophobia to go first, power pose for two minutes and feel confident about what you are saying because you have something to say.

Email Anne McLean at

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