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Why is the first impression so important in public speaking?

As humans, we can’t help judging someone immediately within the first few seconds of meeting them. Researcher Nalini Ambady calls this quick first impression, “thin-slicing.”


Remember that people’s first impression of you happens the moment someone sees you. It’s based on the way you talk, walk, gesture, dress, use your non-verbals, and facial expressions.
In fact, there’s some research that suggests it takes 9 seconds to form a first impression.


For this reason, it’s important to ‘turn on’ before you actually greet people, shake their hand or open your presentation. It’s critical you engage with ‘presence’ as soon as you enter a room. You’ll be much more likely to be able to do all this if you rehearse plenty of times before you get the event.


Vanessa Van Edwards undertook some research into what it is about TED talks that makes certain talks out-rank others. Go to to watch some really fantastic speeches online. Van Edwards found that ‘participants made their decisions about the speaker and the entire talk in the first seven seconds of the video’.


I’ve been teaching persuasive presenting for well over 2 decades now and the importance of a great opening to your speech is common knowledge. It’s critical to grab your audience with a catchy icebreaker: statistic, story, joke, fact, quote. And make sure whatever you do creates the personal brand you’re aiming for in your audience’s mind straight away.


While you’re at it, make sure that your first slide has an incredible title (I call it the PURPOSE in my masterclass) that tells the audience what they will achieve by listening. And be sure to include an even more impressive image on that first slide. For example: “Business Intelligence Update: clarity in a sea of data” with a picture of something like jelly fish in razor sharp focus floating around in the sea. Go to for awesome free images for your opening slide.


Start your next presentation in a way that will ensure you ‘hook’ your audience’s attention.


Happy Presenting!

© Michelle Bowden 2020.  Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), co-creator of the PRSI (a world-first psychometric indicator that tests your persuasiveness at work), best-selling internationally published author (Wiley), and a regular commentator in print, radio and online media.

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