Your Body Language May Shape Who you Are | Amy Cuddy

By Jun 11, 2019 September 29th, 2019 Ted Talk Tips

As a speech coach it was fun watching a social psychologist present on body language and her research. Amy Cuddy has written several books on the topic—I find myself often quoting her when I teach presentation training. Amy says it herself best when she says, “It’s not about the content of the speech—its about the presence that they’re bringing to the speech.” I could not agree more. So, let’s take a look at Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are” and see where her biggest strengths and opportunities are in her presentation.

Strength: Authenticity

This is a woman who is really practicing what she preaches. What I really admire is her ability to be very conversational in this presentation—it almost feels like you are having a conversation with her over dinner. She allows herself to be very open and inspirational.


One of the ways Amy is authentic is she is in the moment—when she speaks about a personal story at the end—her emotion is genuine, and it affects her entire audience even if you are watching through a work computer screen. Another way she is authentic is she has gestures that are natural and not “put on.” Again—it is like you are sitting across the table from her at dinner.


By being true to her authentic self, Amy becomes credible. When a presenter is credible they have more Leadership Presence.

Strength: Clear messaging

One of the biggest challenges of presentation training is having a clear and concise key message. As a researcher explaining to a large population your findings—the trap is to dive into too much detail. Amy pitches her ideas at the right level for a large audience which is why this is one of the most viewed Ted Talks of all time.


Amy begins with a clear and concise key message: “We are influenced by our nonverbals—our thoughts, our feelings our physiology.” Then she begins to provide many relatable examples to explain this. Amy also communicates this message with her body language as she demonstrates at 5:39 both a high-power pose and a low power pose. Once again, she reminds us of her key message, only now she has turned it into a question: “If minds change bodies—do bodies change minds?” She allows us to follow her thinking on how she got her hypothesis without diving into too much detail.


The impact of having clear messaging is that you allow your audience to remember your idea. Another impact is that you engage your audience and provoke their thinking.

Strength: Telling a story

When we tell stories we create meaningful, impactful examples to drive home the point or the key message we are trying to make.


Near the end, Amy tells a heartfelt story about how she felt her identity was stripped from her after a terrible accident. But she rebuilds her confidence and chips away at her imposter syndrome by the slogan she developed “Don’t fake it until you make it, fake it until you become it.” She then imparts this knowledge to a student in a similar position of not feeling like they belonged, bringing the story full circle. Amy has SO MUCH CONTRAST AND ENGAGEMENT as she tells this story. She literally laughs, cries, and takes us on a journey.


Stories do not have to be life and death stories. They can be everyday examples. But they add a lot of contrast and influence to your presentation, whether it be an elevator pitch or a Ted Talk in front of thousands of people.

Opportunity: Phrasing

This is a fast thinking woman. I work with a lot of fast thinking clients as a communications coach and presentation trainer. What happens is when we try to match our speaking to our thoughts, we end up having too many words in one breath—running out of breath and having filler words (um, ah, like, so…)


In her opening words, she has a few filler words she says “So I want to start by UM…offering you a free no tech life hack UM…” She is probably a little nervous (it happens to everyone); however, if she started to use phrasing, she could eliminate some of the filler words. A phrase is a meaningful group of words on one breath. Think of a car. When you accelerate from a stop light and then you slam on the breaks–your ride is jerky. If you accelerate at a normal pace to the next stop light, your ride is smooth. At the end of a phrase (stop light) let out your breath. As you begin the next phrase breathe in and let the phrase flow though. At 7:04 you can hear her start to run out of breath because she is trying to squeeze too many words out on one breathe.


We think at 750 words per minute and we speak at 150 to 200 words per minute. If we try to match our speaking to our thinking, we run out of air and the filler words start to come in. Amy Cuddy is a WONDERFRUL speaker, but how can she get to the NEXT level? Through her phrasing.


To learn more about how we can take you to the next level—whether you are an experienced Ted Talker or someone new to a conference room—schedule a call with one of our communications coaches. We are speech coaches that can take your presentation training to the next level. We are an advanced presentation training company eager to help you speak better—authentically.

Executive Speaking

Author Executive Speaking

Anett Grant has 40 years of coaching top executives, leaders, and emerging leaders from 61 of the Fortune 100 companies, as well as countless midmarket and small businesses from all over the world.

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