First words MUST gain attention!

Why do we need to gain attention with our first words?

1.Quite simply, if you deliver your main message and you audience is doing something else–they have missed the main organizing structure they need to understand your materials.

Do you remember a time when the speaker quickly blurted the title, but, you missed it–you were busy shuffling papers, moving your coat or perhaps putting sugar in your coffee. You missed it.

The result?

You spent the next few minutes, as the speaker rattled on, trying to figure out how the material all hinges together-you were trying to ferret out the main message by looking for clues in the content.

You don’t want that!

Keep in mind that your job is to make the talk as easy to understand and follow as possible.  For scientific speakers it’s easy to loose your audience at the start and it’s easy to loose them along the way.  Because science presentations progress in a logical progressive fashion it is even more important to be sure your audience is right there with you.  Once you loose them they are gone for the remainder of the presentation!

2.  Within minutes, (or even seconds, depending on who you ask) people have formed an opinion and made their minds up about you. “Look how short she is…wow, that’s an annoying voice….bbbbooooorrrriiiiiinnnngggggg! … these initial impressions are powerful, important, and researchers say surprising hard to change.

In his book Blink, Malcom Gladwell refers to “thin slicing” – ability of human beings to make sense of a situation based on a thin slice of experience. The book is full of examples of how people use this ability and just how powerful it really is. (If you haven’t read this book, it’s a “high recommend.”)

He’s trying to get people to consider just how important this is..he says on his website that he wants “to get people to take rapid cognition seriously. When it comes to something like dating, we all readily admit to the importance of what happens in the first instant when two people meet. But we won’t admit to the importance of what happens in the first two seconds when we talk about what happens when someone encounters a new idea, or when we interview someone for a job”…

So what can you do? How do you make a good impression? Say something interesting!  Use a case history, a story, an analogy, a quote, a generalization, a surprising statement.  Do what you need to do to distract your audience from negative judgments and instead have them engaged and thinking about the content. Have them thinking, why is he telling me this?

When you finally deliver your main message and the audience says, ”Oh..I get it-that’s interesting.” You’ve got them. Now you’ve got them primed and waiting for more and you’ve sealed the deal on that very important first impression.

There is 1 comment .

Moe Glenner

Right on! As the old Head & Shoulders commercial used to say, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”.

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Copyright Lisa B. Marshall ©2012-2016. All Rights Reserved. Photo of Lisa B. Marshall by Joan Ford Photography.