Sian Beilock is a cognitive scientistand one of the world’s leading experts on the brain science behind “choking under pressure” in business, education, and sports. She is the 19th president of Dartmouth College, the first woman elected to the position in the institution’s 250-year history. Prior to joining Dartmouth, she served as the eighth president of Barnard College at Columbia University. Based on her own cutting-edge research and her pioneering leadership, Sian Beilock brings to the stage science-backed strategies for performing your best under stress, building and leading strong teams, and enhancing productivity.
Beilock is the author of two critically acclaimed books that have been published in over a dozen languages. Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal about Getting It Right When You Have To is an accessible presentation of the neuroscience and psychology responsible for performance anxiety with simple strategies to ensure success when it matters most. Her related TED talk, "Why We Choke Under Pressure and How to Avoid It," has been viewed over 2.5 million times. Sian’s most recent book, How the Body Knows Its Mind: The Surprising Power of the Physical Environment to Influence How You Think and Feel, reveals the power the body has on how we think, feel, and behave. She makes the case that by mastering these mind-body connections, we can lead happier and more successful lives.
Sian’s research on the cognitive science behind performance anxiety has led to the publication of over 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers and is routinely covered by media outlets such as CNN, New York Times, NPR, and Wall Street Journal. Recently, her work has focused on success in math and science for women and girls, and how performance anxiety can either be exacerbated or alleviated by teachers, parents, and peers. She works closely with individuals, Fortune 500 companies, sports teams, and government organizations to help them build high-performance teams and use research-driven strategies to create environments that attract, retain, and get the best out of their talent.
During the first three years of her tenure as President of Barnard, Beilock enhanced STEM research and teaching programs to parallel the college's renown in the arts and humanities. She implemented Feel Well, Do Well, a campus-wide health and wellness initiative; launched Beyond Barnard, a one-stop shop for career resources at Barnard and beyond; and created options for students to transition directly from Barnard into a range of master’s programs at Columbia through unique five-year BA/MS degrees. Beilock also led Barnard to record fundraising, increased applications for admission, and increased diversity among students, faculty, and staff. Almost half of Barnard students identify as women of color. Prior to her appointment at Barnard, Beilock served at the University of Chicago for 12 years, occupying roles including Executive Vice Provost, the Stella M. Rowley Professor of Psychology, and an Officer of the University.
Sian Beilock has been chosen as one of twenty-five “Women to Watch” by Crain’s Chicago Business Magazine and received early career contribution awards from the Psychonomics Society, the Society ofExperimental Psychologists, the American Psychological Foundation and the Association for Psychological Science. In 2017, Beilock received the National Academy of Sciences Troland Research Award for her pioneering work on anxiety and performance in high-stress situations. She is a member of the National Academy of Kinesiology and the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She earned her Bachelor of Science in cognitive science from the University of California, San Diego, and doctorates of philosophy in both kinesiology and psychology from Michigan StateUniversity.
Using insights from brain science to enhance productivity and create quality performances
When you are stuck on a problem, you are more likely to come up with the solution if you take a break rather than if continually toil away, beating your head against the wall. Psychologists call it the ’incubation effect.’ Taking a break is akin to rebooting a computer when it has frozen, dead ends are lost and you come back with a blank slate, more likely to find the solution. Beilock gives simple, science-driven tips, about how to perform at your best.
Leadership and Communication in the Workplace
Simple things managers do, from putting the take-home point of an email in the first paragraph to helping to foster ’collective intelligence’ in their teams can make the difference between good vs. great performance. Beilock unpacks the latest thinking on best-practices for leadership and communication.
How to Perform Your Best Under Stress
What happens in our brain and body when we experience performance anxiety? What are we doing differently when everything clicks into place? And, what specific techniques should we utilize to ensure the best performance when it matters most? In an energetic tour of the latest brain science, Dr. Beilock explains why we all too often blunder when the stakes are high and — more importantly — what we can do to ensure that we put our best foot forward when the pressure is on. Leveraging social science research to create better thinkers, communicators, and performersOften times we know what to do, but not how to tell someone else how to do it — the ’curse of expertise.’ Putting together teams of people with varied knowledge and experience helps ensure everyone is on the same page. Beilock gives insights from social science research on creating the best teams and the best conditions to foster optimal individual and group performance.
Fostering team work — especially in times of crisis
The brain registers social pain much in the same way that it registers physical pain. This fact puts a whole new spin on how to develop teamwork. For instance, team-work exercises that help people feel more physically connected may help foster mental connectedness as well. Beilock unpacks the most recent brain science to help your group perform at its best.
Your talk was enlightening and inspiring, and many of our guests walked away better equipped to deal with stress and anxiety. By sharing with us tips and guidelines to manage our reactions under pressure, you have helped further our understanding of what it takes to succeed and thrive at work.