The Power Of Seven Seconds
A clever psychological study (that was too in-depth for me to read all the way through so I skipped to the end) posits the theory that you have just 7 seconds before the other person – whoever that might be – has made up their mind about you. This is true for everything from first dates to job interviews, but it’s especially true when an audience is involved.
I can tell you from experience there’s nothing quite so horrifyingly memorable as the moment an entire crowd of people decide they’re not interested in what you have to say.
The wave of disappointment as they all come to the collective conclusion that you need to hurry up and get on with it is a thing you won’t forget fast.
The way to avoid it?
One option is to let how badly doing it wrong makes you feel as a person – really drink it in – then spend the next six months in therapy before deciding the best thing for everyone is if you just never leave the house again.
Alternatively, you can make sure your first impression is always a great one (I’ve experienced both so would recommend the latter).
Get that first impression right and the audience will follow you wherever it is you choose to take them next. It’s that powerful. And it’s a concept that has never been more true than it is right now.
In today’s world of instant gratification, distractions at our very fingertips and the comfort we’ve all found from having a ‘skip’ button attached to just about everything we watch, dimming the lights and playing ‘Simply the Best’ just won’t cut it as an opener in 2019.
To get people’s attention today, you need something more.
The opening sequence of any event, conference or awards night sets the tone for the entire show. Tells the audience exactly what to expect, what you expect in return and whether they’re going to give it to you in the first place.
Audiences are smart too. I’ve spent enough time on stages around the world with enough different crowd-sizes, cultures and situations to have figured out that gauging their instant reactions to see what works and what doesn’t is everything.
So I’ve come up with a method.
Over the years I’ve worked tirelessly with producers, creative directors and clients to assist them to produce some of the best, most relevant, openings I can, forever refining ways to make sure those seven seconds count.
Always working from the ground up, I’ve found the key to it (beyond simply taking the brief and working to budget), is to confound their expectations.
From magically appearing CEO’s to interactive dance troupes or extensive pre-recorded on-site VT’s, there’s certainly no shortage of ways to do it - the point is to always make sure that you do.
At a recent event in London for 2,000 delegates, the client wanted to surprise the audience, trip them up, show them that their conference wasn’t going to be ‘just another conference’. They wanted humour, impact and high energy but of course, with a watchful eye on the costs throughout.
So I created an opening sequence and directed rehearsals prior to showtime.
Performing as the host for the event, I was able to mentally position the audience exactly where we needed them for when the moment hit.
Take a look at the short film below to see what happened, why it worked and how we got the most from the opening seven seconds of the show by using them wisely.
At another event, I was booked late with no budget or time for anything quite so pre-planned as the example above. So after having had a quick word with the backstage team, I found a cabinet. The kind of cabinet that looks like something magical will happen if you put it into the middle of a stage, so that’s what I did.
The spotlight focused all attention on the cabinet. The MC announced my imminent entrance. Epic music blared through the speakers. Every eye became fixated on this one box.
I then walked to the stage from the back of the auditorium through the crowd.
‘Oh, the box? Sorry I left that there earlier.’
The crowd knew whatever they had expected to happen wasn’t going to from now on - they were hooked. Not bad for a last-minute idea on the fly.
In short, whatever the show you put on might be, make sure you have them at hello.