The first two minutes!
Whether you are giving a speech to a large audience, meeting someone at a cocktail party or presenting your case to a venture capitalist for business funding- the first TWO minutes of your comments will make or break your chances of engaging people and encouraging them to want to know more.
A research study I did several years ago showed that when entrepreneurs made presentations to potential investors, the decision to want to know more or not was made in two minutes. We videotaped these entrepreneurs and when we showed the videos to different groups of psychology doctoral students, investors, and executive MBA’s, the results did not change (Hoehn-Weiss, Brush, & Baron, 2004, Journal of Private Equity)
Similarly, a few years ago, two experimental psychologists from Harvard University analyzed the non-verbal aspects of good teaching and found that students would make assessments of faculty within the first 5 seconds.
What are the criteria for making these assessments? In a nutshell, it is social skills – persuasiveness, ability to listen, impression management and perceived credibility.
As a Professor of Entrepreneurship it is crucial to think about this for every class. Most of us teach at least 13 sessions of a single class per semester (26 if the class meets 2 times a week) – this means that for a single class, a professor needs to have at least 13 (or 26) great first two minute segments. I taught a workshop to entrepreneurship doctoral students on this at the recent AGSE conference, sponsored by Queensland University of Technology, Swinburne University and Sunshine Coast University in Brisbane Australia (http://www.swinburne.edu.au/hosting/agseconference/).
What are the key things for Professors to think about? I summarized there are three things: first, you have to have a good “hook” to engage the class- get their attention, and make sure it is relevant to the topic for discussion. This will also set the tone or mood for the class. Second, gauge and manage expectations. State your objectives, and understand that the students have expectations for what they will get out of the class. Finally, listen to the students and take what they say seriously. These things can help you manage your first two minutes successfully!
Candida G. Brush, Professor of Entrepreneurship
Paul T. Babson Chair in Entrepreneurship
Chair, Entrepreneurship Division