"You only get one opportunity to make a good first impression.” - Old saying
All speeches are bad unless it achieves your objective. You are speaking with an objective in mind otherwise you are either making noise or entertaining. You have to somehow convey your objective without words and that is the key to being successful in the first seven seconds.
One of the smartest and accomplished person in communications is Roger Ailes. He has been a communications adviser to three US presidents (Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr.) among other accomplishments. Presently, he is the Chairman of Fox News, which has been the highest rated cable news channel in the United States for more than a decade. He writes in his book "You Are the Message" that "Research shows that we start to make up our minds about other people within seven seconds of first meeting them...Consciously or unconsciously, we're signalling to other people what our true feelings are and what we really want to happen in an encounter."
In the movie “Man on the Moon,” Jim Carrey plays the late great comedian Andy Kaufman. In one scene, Kaufman goes to see a yogi. He asks the yogi a question: “Is there a secret to being funny?” The yogi replies, “Silence!” Kaufman goes on to incorporate silence in his comedy routine.
In this video from the movie, you see Andy Kaufman doing this funny skit based on the theme song from the popular cartoon “Mighty Mouse” on Saturday Night Live (SNL). He uses no words, but look at the tension he creates with the audience in the beginning. Once they get what he is doing, they quickly get the joke. Kaufman's objective was to get a laugh. And as you can see he achieves his objective without using any words.
You have to know your objective, and you don’t need any words to achieve that. You have to be on your game in the first seven seconds otherwise you will quickly be in “garbage time" as they say in a professional basketball game when the game has already been decided and you are just playing to run out the clock. You do not ever want to give your speech during "garbage time."
What to look for when you practicing your first seven seconds?
You have to practice like it is real otherwise it is not going to tell you how you appear in front of an audience. You have to put on your casual, business casual or business clothes based on the setting. You have to know what you look like in different settings where you could possibly be giving your speech.
An amateur thing to do is to just get in front of a video camera and record it in your jeans and a hoodie. Unless you are Mark Zuckerberg, I don't advice you do this. He can get away with it since he is worth over $28 billion and has created his brand. No one knows us, so we have to play it little safer.
The first seven seconds are the most important in any speech. If you are not mindful of this, you could bomb without even saying a single word.
To practice the first seven seconds, you don’t need to prepare a speech. All you want to have is a message that you want to convey. You may want to write it down and even socialize with people you trust. Once you have the message, it is time to make a video recording.
You can start the video recorder (or you can easily edit it in YouTube), and just stand in front of the camera for close to seven seconds. After the seven seconds, stop the video recorder. You can edit out the first seven seconds that you want others to see on your recorded video.
Though you didn’t say a word, this is the most important seven seconds of any speech. I refer to this as the zero moment of speech (ZMOS). ZMOS occurs when people who are either watching your video or a live audience and they start making judgments about you. The only thing that is under you control at this point is how you appear and whether you have something to say that will add value to them. You have to make sure you don’t disappoint them when you start speaking.
You do have to prepare for these seven seconds since if you don’t look like someone who is going to add value to people, you will quickly start losing them before you say a single word. Just imagine all the work you put into creating a speech will go to waste because you did not prepare adequately for the first seven seconds.
Do not take the first seven seconds lightly. It could be the difference between success or failure of your speech no matter how much time you spent crafting a speech or how well you organized your speech. It will not matter much to the audience since everything you say will be used by the audience to justify why you are not adding any value to them.
Until you get the first seven seconds right, you should not move to the next speech, which will be an introductory speech, which is probably the most important speech that most of us ever give.