We all know that first impressions matter. Research shows that students’ impressions of instructors on the first day of class persist throughout the semester.Eric L. Laws, Jennifer M. Apperson, Stephanie Buchert, and Norman J. Bregman, “Student Evaluations of Instruction: When Are Enduring First Impressions Formed?” North American Journal of Psychology 12, no. 1 (2010): 81. First impressions are quickly formed, sometimes spontaneous, and involve little to no cognitive effort. Despite the fact that first impressions aren’t formed with much conscious effort, they form the basis of inferences and judgments about a person’s personality.Johanna Lass-Hennemann, Linn K. Kuehl, André Schulz, Melly S. Oitzl, and Hartmut Schachinger, “Stress Strengthens Memory of First Impressions of Others’ Positive Perosnality Traits,” PLoS ONE 6, no. 1 (2011): 1. For example, the student who approaches the front of the class before their speech wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt, looks around blankly, and lets out a sigh before starting hasn’t made a very good first impression. Even if the student is prepared for the speech and delivers it well, the audience has likely already associated what they observed with personality traits of the student (i.e., lazy, indifferent), and those associations now have staying power in the face of contrary evidence that comes later.

Your introduction is only a fraction of your speech, but in that first minute or so, your audience decides whether or not they are interested in listening to the rest of the speech. There are four objectives that you should accomplish in your introduction. They include getting your audience’s attention, introducing your topic, establishing credibility and relevance, and previewing your main points.

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