How quickly does an audience judge a speaker?

I have just finished reading Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. Simplistically speaking, the book is about how we make snap judgments and decisions in the blink of an eye. The book itself is very interesting, and well worth reading, however it raised an interesting question.

How quickly does an audience judge a speaker?

My suspicion is that the audience have decided whether to listen to you or to switch off within the first 30 seconds of your presentation. So, the challenge is how are you going to grab their attention in those first few seconds? Here are three ideas:

  1. Start with a powerful question (have you ever?.?)
  2. Start with a powerful statement (in 5 years time, 1/5 of this audience will have been laid off?).
  3. Let them know what is in it for them (today you will learn three ways to increase sales?)

Here?s what not to say:

  1. I am so happy be here (clich?)
  2. I am going to tell you (rather use ?you will learn? ? speak to the audience)
  3. When I wrote my speech this morning (shows a lack of preparation)

The trick is to keep your introductions sharp, and to grap the attention of your audience as soon as you can.

Enjoy the book.

2 thoughts on “How quickly does an audience judge a speaker?”

  1. Hi Craig,

    I think you are creating an image, and people are deciding whether to listen or not, as you leave your seat to walk to the speaking position. (If not when you were chatting with the audience earlier) It’s that early!

  2. You are absolutely right, the audience starts to judge you before you even get onto stage. I know of several professional speakers that make a point of meeting as many audience members beforehand. This helps you to get to know the audience even better (you have researched them beforehand, and to make a few friends who you get excited about your presentation before you even speak.

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