The eight-second rule in speaking

Public speaking experts agree that most people decide in the first eight seconds whether a particular speaker is worth listening to. So a strong beginning is crucial. One way to make sure you start strong is to go through this eight-second drill as practice exercise:

  • Pick a timely and very specific topic that you could easily talk about for three minutes. Don’t just read a script. Have an opinion; then try to convince the audience that you are right.
  • Present your case. Organize your thoughts, set up an outline to follow and write your ideas down. Then set your notes aside, stand in front of a mirror and start talking. Present your case in three minutes—don’t go even 20 seconds over.
  • Start shaving time off your presentation. First, take off one full minute; then go to one minute total. Continue to cut down your information to 30 seconds, to 20, then 10, until you are finally getting your point across in eight seconds.

You’ll find the hardest part is going from 30 seconds down to eight; but once you do, you will have captured the essence of your presentation. This is your theme, your message. Never lose sight of it.

Source: The Motivational Manager, May-June 2003.

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