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Gone in 9 Seconds: Is Your Presentation Losing Your Audience?

Is your presentation losing the audience?You only have 9 seconds to capture your audience's attention.

Is your jaw on the floor? Are you thinking “Michelle's nuts where is she getting this information?”

In Sally Hogshead's new book “How the World Sees You“, I was astounded to learn that you have 9 seconds to fascinate your audience.

Are you wasting the most precious real estate in your presentation by doing any of the following?

And if you are, don't worry you're not alone. You'll also find out the simple tip to start your presentation in the most engaging way as possible.

Justifying and hedging

Before you start with a bold statement or captivating story do you say any of the following:

  • I want to tell you a story
  • I just want to clear the air
  • One of the things I was thinking the other day
  • Maybe you believe this to…

Justifying and hedging lessens your credibility, make you look less confident, and unsure of what you're saying. The bolder the statement or opening line, the more likely you'll hedge your bets.

Ladies, I hate to call you out, but we are far more likely to do this than the dudes. I highly recommend checking out Tara Mohr's book “Playing Big“, she devotes a whole of chapter to how the way we communicate may be undermining us.

Witty banter and small talk

I saw a good friend of mine speak, and when she walked up in front of the room she spent the first couple of minutes making small talk with the audience. She talked about how she likes to walk around during a presentation and a story about her fit bit and how her dog ate her fit bit – here's the problem – she speaks on social media.

Her banter and small talk had nothing to do with her speech.

When you take the stage actually take the stage. Walk up with confidence. Pause. Take a breath. Make eye contact. Begin with your opening line that is going to grab your audience's attention by the seat of their pants.

“Thank you for having for me”

You're welcome. While your audience is glad that you're here, there's no need to thank your audience right off the bat. I know you're trying to develop rapport, show how grateful you are or that you love the organization, city, or hotel your staying at but this has NOTHING to do with your presentation.

Although I love to think about keep presentations conversational, they should NOT start like an informal conversation.

Times ticking. You're losing the audience by the second.

Here's my elevator pitch

You were just introduced. There's no need to say who you are, what's your title, and how you help people….again.

Honestly, no one really cares about you. When you an open a presentation with Me, Me, Me (like a bad opera singer), you leave the audience wondering what's in it for them?

No need to sing your accolades – just get to the meat of your speech!

What should you do instead?


If you've spent the time thinking about your opening line and exactly how you want to grab the audience's attention, you need to begin with that line. My clients and I spend the MOST time on the opening of their presentation. (If you haven't, you NEED to immediately!)

Don't let that hard work go to waste. Open with it! Captivate the audience straightaway. You've only got nine seconds – don't waste them!

Need more help on crafting your introduction? Check out this blog post, How to Begin Your Speech with a Win.

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6 responses to “Gone in 9 Seconds: Is Your Presentation Losing Your Audience?”

  1. Richard I. Garber says:


    I think speakers have a lot more than nine seconds to capture the audience’s attention. Sally Hogshead’s claim came from the opening sentence of a 2002 BBC article about web browsing. Browsing behavior so widely variable that just an average is a poor description.

    Anyhow, the claim of a nine second attention span really goes back at least 45 years, so you shouldn’t be astounded by it. See:


    • Michelle_Mazur says:

      I am astounded by the fact that so many speakers waste the precious few moments of their presentation with utter filler. I think you might have missed the larger point of the article, but I appreciate your thought out opinion.

  2. Gone in 9 Seconds: Is Your Presentation Losing Your Audience? | Alvin Plexico, PhD says:

    […] Gone in 9 Seconds: Is Your Presentation Losing Your Audience? by Dr. Michelle Mazur […]

  3. 5 Ways Public Speaking is like Dating says:

    […] a speaker you need to capture your audience’s attention out of the gate. The first 9-seconds must grab them, pique their interest and leave them dying to hear the rest of your speech. More importantly stay […]

  4. The Real Threats to Your Presentation Success says:

    […] Sally cites a study from IBM that says you’ve only got 9 seconds to fascinate your audience. How are you using those 9 precious seconds? […]

  5. The Attention Span Statistic Fallacy | PolicyViz says:

    […] included it in a post last year. Speech coach and presentation author Michelle Mazur used it in a blog post on audience attention, where she cited Sally Hogshead’s book, How the World Sees You. Hogshead […]

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