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The (real) importance of the first impression

Every once in a while a study pops up that proves the importance of the first few seconds of a speech. Often, the conclusion is that the first impression would be the most important part of your speech.

Yet, one crucial aspect usually gets overlooked by these studies: Great speeches are often great from the start. Not the other way around.

As humans, we’re quite good at estimating the quality of a talk from a few impressions. Body signals, voice signals, but also the clarity in the text. We’re super quick to make first estimations based on these signals. Amazingly often, these estimations prove to be correct.

Here’s the pitfall: The speech is not great because it begins great. The beginning is just an accurate snapshot that we base our estimation on. Judging from a short snapshot of the middle or the ending of a great speech would quite likely predict the quality of the speech just as accurately.

Great speeches are usually great throughout the entire duration of the speech. (Because the speaker cares, actually knows what they’re talking about, prepares well and rehearses thoroughly.)

It’s a mistake to focus on the beginning of a speech as the deciding factor (if only because great speeches exist that started poorly and vice versa).

The better strategy is to make a great speech and make it great from the start.

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