We’ve recently been inspired by social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s brilliant TED Talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.” It’s a perfect example that shows how personal stories, video, photos, and a great hook can move an audience. Here is a breakdown of why we think her presentation works:

A Great Hook

Amy Cuddy’s introductory hook is one of the best we’ve heard, briefly mentioning a change that can occur if you alter your posture for two minutes (at about the 0:15 mark). She then asks the audience to be mindful of how they are sitting, but leaves it at that. It’s a tease; we want to know more and we like the idea that something good can come out of a mere two minutes of doing anything.

Use of Video

Not a lot of presentations we see during TED use video, but Amy Cuddy does so with a successful (and brief) video at about 1:30. In which, President Obama reaches out to shake hands with a British guard while Prime Minister David Cameron awkwardly ignores the guard’s outstretched hand. It’s relevant, funny, and strengthens the speech.

Use of Photos

One of Amy Cuddy’s strongest points is her use of photography on slides to illustrate her message. For instance, she shows the difference between the victorious runner with outstretched arms at about 4:30, as well as how we make ourselves look smaller in a position of low power at about 5:30. This is revisited with different images at around 10:20, solidifying the concept to the audience.

Emotions and Storytelling

Cuddy does an excellent job of weaving studies and stories throughout the presentation. For instance, when she describes alpha monkeys and their behavior at 9:45. However, the strongest, most impactful part of her presentation happens at around 16 minutes in, when she describes her recovery from a serious car crash, its damage on her self-perception, and how she overcame it. She captivates the audience by relating all the facts and studies to this highly emotional moment, and doesn’t hesitate to show how she feels. Her story is one of personal triumph, and the audience holds their breath as they watch it. It ties the presentation together powerfully.

Strong Conclusion

The “2 minute” hook that was introduced in the beginning comes to a satisfactory close as she encourages the audience to spend time sitting in a power pose to alter the way they feel about themselves. Having shared her personal experience with this concept, we feel more satisfied than if she had presented only facts and figures and left us to decide about the whole “2 minute” idea ourselves.

Combining moving personal narrative, wisely-chosen media, and a strong hook, Amy Cuddy succeeds massively in her TED Talk. It makes us want to take a power pose right now.

Question: How can Amy Cuddy inspire the way you approach your next presentation?

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