This was originally posted on Rhode Island Networking Events
Seldom in my life had I been more horrified. Mortified. Embarrassed. If I could have been anywhere else, I would have. Thirty seconds. I think the Dean felt the same way. He scanned the room, not too subtly, desperately attempting to catch someone’s eye. He finally did; and having found the pretext to excuse himself from the conservation, practically ran away from me. Thirty seconds.
That’s how I remember it anyway. What should have been an evening to enjoy a little reward for all my hard work turned into one of my worst stuttering memories. Thirty seconds. So much depending on so little time.
I had made the “Dean’s List” for academic achievement and was invited to an exclusive party so the Dean could meet his “top students”. I think I probably went looking forward to something other than cafeteria food. In hind-sight, the “mystery-meat special” would have been a better bet.
This happened B.T. Before Therapy. After a life-time of severe stuttering, and then several years of work with Dr. Barry Guitar of the University of Vermont, I don’t call myself “cured”, but rather a “recovered” stutter.
Why did I tell you this story? A couple of reasons. First, I wanted, or needed, to get your attention and hold it. Reading that first paragraph probably took you about 30 seconds. If I did it right, it made you want to learn more. Second reason? I told you a story. Everyone loves a story. We remember stories. Our brains are hard-wired to remember things through thousands of years of story-telling.
There are lots of ways to begin a conversation that will grab and hold someone’s attention. Some people call it a “hook”. Story-telling is just one of these. In his book “Blink”, Malcolm Gladwell explains that people create an impression, or “judgment” about us in less than thirty seconds. It’s a subconscious process, which makes it that much more difficult to overcome. Thirty seconds – that’s how long we have to make an impression – to get our point across; or in a business setting, deliver our “opening”. This determines if they’ll continue to listen to what you say. Again, from a business perspective, if they’re not listening, they’re not buying.
The next time you know you’re going to be meeting someone new, give some thought as to what you’ll say. How you’ll introduce yourself or your business; think about how you can do it in 30 seconds.