The most important two minutes of your speech occur before you take the stage.
Practicing nonverbal cues, or body language, will “optimally configure your brain to deal with a stressful situation," says Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy. And the better you manage stress, the more effective you’ll be in front of a crowd. Forget about the slides for a moment; style trumps content, says Cuddy.
The biological explanation is this: When a person’s testosterone level is high, he or she feels confident. When cortisol levels are low, a person doesn’t feel stressed. The way you hold your body can change those hormone levels.
Here’s the two-minute pose: Spread out your arms, and set feet fairly wide apart. If you’re at a desk, strike the familiar “CEO pose,” as Cuddy calls it—feet propped up, with fingers interlaced on the back of your head. “Use the expansive poses associated with power,” says Cuddy, “and make yourself as big as you can. What you’re doing is increasing your testosterone, which is the dominance hormone. And decreasing your cortisol.”
What to avoid: Crossing your arms across your body, touching your neck, or hunching your shoulders.
— Adapted from “Do It Yourself: Body Language,” MSNBC.