From the Field: Howdy Partner!

In her new book Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People, Vanessa Van Edwards cites a 2009 study in which dating site OkCupid investigated what works best in your first communication with a match and revealed which words make the best first impression.

What they found is that it pays to use an unusual greeting. While messages that began with “Hi” had an average response rate just under 25%, messages that began with “Howdy” had an average response of almost 45%! This is consistent with my advice in The Science of Speaking to jump straight into an engaging hook that catches the audience’s attention instead of wasting time with clichéd pleasantries.

The other winning strategy that OkCupid identified was make the message about “you” (i.e., the audience), showing interest in the recipient right from the start. For example, messages that included “how’s it going?” near the beginning had a response rate of nearly 55%. This is consistent with my repeated advice that when you’re giving a speech, it should be all about “you.”

While conversations on a dating site are obviously different from a speech, it’s interesting to see that the same basic principles hold true. Catch your audience’s attention with an unusual opener, then keep it by making it all about them, and you’ll be well on your way to speaking (and dating) success.

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