01 Mar 2016


Re: Eric Dufaure (MBA 1974); Laurie Stach (MBA 2011); Arthur Segel


Making Your Presence Felt

by Sean Silverthorne

Now trumpeted by popular writer Susan Cain as the “high priestess of self-confidence for the self-doubting,” Associate Professor Amy Cuddy nevertheless crumbled in her first elevator pitch.

Attending a gathering of prestigious researchers, Cuddy, then a fifth-year PhD student, found herself in an elevator face-to-face with an academic hero, who asked her to give a literal elevator pitch on her work. She bombed, overwhelmed by the moment and unable to give a coherent description of what she had been studying the past four years.

In her new book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, Cuddy highlights her personal experience to introduce the concept of “presence,” the ability to generate an inner calm, authority, and confidence during times of potential stress. In high anxiety situations such as job interviews or presentations, Cuddy contends that we are likely to lose this self-possession in a fit of worrying about the stakes and self-questioning our performance. If only we could stay in the moment, focused on the task at hand, calmly and without regret about the results.

We can achieve presence when we need it, Cuddy argues, through a combination of body postures, behavior, and mindset, which activate chemical changes in the body. Expansive “power poses” can cause testosterone levels to rise and cortisol levels to drop, in turn increasing our appetite for risk, causing us to perform better in job interviews, for instance, and generally configuring our brains to cope well in stressful situations, she says. Her 2012 TED Talk on power posing, with 30 million views, is the second-most viewed video in the series.

“When we feel present, our speech, facial expressions, postures, and movements align,” Cuddy writes. “And that internal convergence, that harmony, is palpable and resonant—because it’s real.”

If you want to make a bad impression, Cuddy can tell you how to do that as well. Slouch. Cross your ankles. Walk with short strides and little arm movement. “When we feel powerless or subordinate, we constrict our posture, tightening, wrapping, and making ourselves smaller,” she writes.

Cuddy is among a growing number of HBS faculty using scientific methods and behavioral science to study how the human brain works. Peer into their research toolkits and you will find instruments for brain scanning and eye tracking, as well as experiments to test psychological and physiological responses. Beware, future MBAs: Can a cold call of a student’s galvanic skin response be far away?



“The 80–20 rule pervades everything in life. Eighty percent of your revenue is going to come from 20 percent of your customers; 80 percent of the value of what you read comes from 20 percent of the text; and 80 percent of the value of your work comes from 20 percent of the effort. So when starting your company, find those 20 percent of things you can do that will get you 80 percent of the results, and forget the rest.”

Laurie Stach (MBA 2011), founder and executive director of MIT Launch, an entrepreneurship program for high-school students, discussing startup time management during a TEDx event at Institut Le Rosey—a Swiss boarding school


What I’m Reading

“For those who love history and like thinking about why our American system (with all of its flaws) kind of works, these two books help to frame how lucky we are and why the way we do things in the United States does not work so readily elsewhere.”
—HBS professor Arthur Segel, on Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk, by Peter L. Bernstein, and The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, by Hernando de Soto


Video Embed

This video was shot at Île de Ré off the western coast of France and stars Eric’s son Paul.

Lyrics: La Fille En Ré (THE GIRL FROM RÉ)

Le sable est chaud à Sablanceaux
The sand is hot at Sablanceaux

Tout est doux à Rivedoux
Everything is calm at Rivedoux

C’est l’paradis à Sainte-Marie
It’s paradise at Sainte-Marie

Elle suce sa roue à La Noue
She’s tailgating him at La Noue

Il est dans sa botte à La Flotte
He’s riding in her group at La Flotte

A bicyclette aux Grenettes
They’re biking at Les Grenettes

Elle prend l’virage au Bois-Plage
She turns the corner at Bois-Plage

Il la rejoint à Saint-Martin
He catches up with her at Saint-Martin

Elle fait l’avion au Bastion
She’s gliding at the Bastion

Ils bavardent à la Couarde
They start chatting at la Couarde

A la Pergo c’est l’apèro>
At the Pergola it’s time for drinks

Ils se tutoient à Loix
They’re on first name terms at Loix

La fille en Ré, elle l’a fait rêver
The girl from Ré, she made him dream

La fille en Ré, elle l’a réveillé
The girl from Ré, she woke him up

—“La Fille en Ré,” by Private Pepper, a.k.a. musician Eric Dufaure (MBA 1974).


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