The Seven Second Impact: Communicate with Power and Impact

In preparation for a presentation, be cognizant of these three things.


In the 1960s, Albert Mehrabian of UCLA did extensive research to understand the order of magnitude of verbal versus nonverbal communication.

In his book, Silent Messages, he asserted that:

  • 55 percent of communication is nonverbal—your bearing;
  • 38 percent is vocal—the manner in which you engage; and
  • 7 percent are words—choose carefully.

These judgments are being made at lightning speed. In fact, my own research suggests that people make decisions about you in the first seven seconds they see you. And it’s these early judgments that often prove to be one of the key predictors as to whether your speech will be perceived positively or negatively.

Think about how much time you spend preparing for a presentation or speech.

You spend hours honing your script, seeking to choose exactly the right words, only to pay no attention whatsoever to the visual judgments that your audience is bound to make about you each time you get up to speak.

Like it or not, without fail or exception, your audience is judging you. They’re looking at the way you are standing, your dress, your eye contact, your bearing and are making silent judgments about you.

Your gestures and body movements should convince those around you that you are lively and energetic.

Bring your mind, body, and spirit to every encounter and audience engagement. Making a positive first impression is critical. Remember, you have just seven seconds—but if you handle yourself in the right ways, seven seconds are all you need. If words are stripped away and the only communication left is body language, the truth will find its way to the audience.

Before you stand and deliver, remind yourself that the body speaks before the mouth opens.

Fake It “Til You Make It

You’ve no doubt heard, used, and even applied this maxim to yourself or those around you.

Fake it until you make it…or rather, actually become it. There are plenty of studies that back up the notion that there is a lot of power in visualizing the achievement of goals that require strengths or skills we may not yet possess.

We are often plagued by inner doubts and a lack of confidence that can disable our ability to reach our fullest potential.

Part of visualizing your success may require yourself to “fake” or deliberately force yourself to act with the confidence that is needed to progress toward your desired outcome. From motivational self-talk to transforming how you hold your body, these exercises achieve the same goal: greater confidence, yielding greater results.

How we stand, what we do with our hands and arms, how we hold our head, where we look, what we wear, how fast or slow we talk – these all communicate messages that your audience is often hearing just as much or more than the actual words you speak.

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Chuck Garcia
Chuck Garcia
Chuck is an author, executive coach, keynote speaker, and CEO of Climb Leadership International. He coaches executives on public speaking and leadership communication. A 25-year veteran of Wall Street, he spent several of those in leadership positions at Bloomberg, BlackRock, and Citadel. He is also adjunct associate professor at Columbia University where he teaches leadership communication in The Fu Foundation Graduate School of Engineering and Applied Science. He leverages his business leadership experience, as well as his hobby of mountain climbing, to provide an effective teaching narrative for professionals applying his tools and techniques. In his book A Climb to the Top, an Amazon best seller, draws on years of coaching and consulting experience to explain how you can become a powerful and persuasive communicator. Chuck is a graduate of Syracuse University and has a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership. Website