7 Seconds or you’re history

Making a great opening has always been important but how important has been highlighted by some research by Vanessa van Edwards and Brandon Vaughn in a well-structured experiment with Ted talks.

Their research found that people will make up their mind about you in the first 7 seconds and after that, it’s hard to change them. Importantly in the research, they tested 2 groups…one saw only the first 7 seconds of a talk only, the other saw the entire Ted talk. The ratings from the groups were basically the same. In other words, whether people saw the entire presentation or not, their judgments were the same.

Importantly, it didn’t matter whether the viewer could hear the speaker or not! In other words, this judgment was entirely out of non-verbal signals.

Some other insights from the research showed:

  • Hand movements: good, positive ones will improve peoples perception of you as a speaker and generally rate you higher.
  • Smiling matters: people who smiled more were generally seen as more intelligent
  • Scripts kill Charisma: No surprise here. Who can remember anything they heard someone say in a scripted speech.
  • Speakers with higher vocal variety were seen as more credible. In other words, don’t be a drone.
  • Charisma was a function of 1 & 4 above.

Business clothing, even business casual, rated better than just casually dressed speakers and preferably dark.

So, in summary, things to proactive for your next presentation:

  • Start energetically
  • Smile a lot and keep your energy up during your presentation. This will cause you to use your hands.
  • Use “light & shade” in your voice when you speak, and,
  • Dress professionally.

Good luck with your next presentation!