Getting and maintaining the attention of ANY audience these days is rare.
A good hook, however, can capture your audience,
and is essential to any great presentation.
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You’re listening to the “Sound Check” Podcast, Episode #3: “It’s ALL about the hook.”
Welcome to “Sound Check,” a podcast by a speaker, for speakers. Are you looking to knock your next presentation out of the park? Well then you’ve come to the right place! And now your host, Sari de la Motte…
“Thank you for that introduction. I’m so happy to be here. Today I’d like to share some research that I think is very interesting about…”
[Record scratch] Wait, what? That didn’t hook you?
Yeah, I’m not surprised. Luckily today we’re going to talk about THE HOOK.
Welcome to “Sound Check!” My name is Sari de la Motte. I’m a presentation coach, speaker and trial consultant and I’m so excited that you’re listening to today’s podcast!
In my last podcast, I talked about how everyone listens to the same radio station: WIIFM - What’s In It For Me. Anyone in any audience listening to any speaker needs you to answer the question: What’s In It For Me? They’re asking themselves, “Why should I listen to you? How does this apply to my life? How can I use this information?”
Once you understand that every presentation has to speak to your audience’s needs, interests and problems, NOT yours, you’re on your way to creating an engaging presentation. But you’re not quite there yet. In order to share your unique answer to your audience’s problem, you first have to get their attention.
And you’re in luck! In today’s podcast we’re going to be talking about how to do just that, by talking about the HOOK.
The first thing that comes out of your mouth in a presentation has to engage the audience and make them want to continue to listen. And yet most presenters begin like how I did:
“Thank you for that introduction. I’m so happy to be here. Today I’d like to do…” blah-blah-blah-blah. In other words, the speaker just dives right into content without engaging the listener. Now you may think, well, the audience has the title of my presentation; they knowwhat this is about, that’s why they’re here! But you’ve got that all wrong.
There are only two reasons any audience is sitting in front of you when you’re on stage about to present. They’ve either been forced to be there, as you’ve been brought in as a special speaker for a mandatory event (and oh boy are those gigs tough) or they’ve chosen to be there based on your title, your reputation or some other reason like they need CLE credit or want to impress their boss.
Regardless of the reason, in BOTH cases you need to get their attention and get it fast. Sure it’s a bit harder with the “forced” group but it’s still just as needed with the volunteer group. That audience wants you to show them they made the right choice to attend your presentation, otherwise you get blamed.
Think of it this way: if you’re forced to attend a presentation by your boss and the presentation sucks, you can blame your boss. But if you choose to attend a presentation on your own and it sucks you blame the speaker.
In that way there’s WAY more at stake with the volunteer group than the hostage group.
So...Back to hook. Let’s start by looking at what a hook IS and what makes a great hook.
When I think of the word hook I think of a fishing hook. My family owns a cabin in Finland, where both of my parents were born, and that cabin sits on the edge of a lake. That’s where I first learned how to fish. Me and my sister made fishing poles out of the long tree branches on the birch trees near the cabin and my dad would fashion them with fishing wire. Before we got in the boat, however, we had to go dig up worms. I didn’t mind this part so much but I hated putting them on the hook. They squirmed and I squealed and finally my dad took over. We’d then pile into the row boat, row out into the middle of the lake and drop the fishing line attached to the ends of our poles in the water. My dad had attached a little floaty, I’m sure there’s a proper fishing term for it, but that little plastic red thing that bobs up and down in the water to let you know if a fish got a hold of your worm. And we’d wait and wait and wait, looking to see if there was a little tugging motion on the floaty thing (I really should look up the name of whatever that is), and then pull up on our poles real quick and hope that there was a fish on the end.
A hook for a presentation isn’t much different. I mean it has less worms, that’s true, but what we’re attempting to do with our hook is to get the fish, or the audience in this case, to bite. In that way, it really is more about what we put ON the hook than the hook itself; that brings us back to the last podcast: whatever you’re putting on the end of that hook better be something the audience wants or they won’t bite.
So what makes a good hook? Well, there are several things to hook an audience, but in this podcast I’m going to focus on three sure-fire ways to develop a great hook. Keep in mind that these hooks will only work if the subject matter is of interest to your group; do they care about the information that’s about to follow? Again, see my last podcast for more ways to think about your audience and how to tailor your message to them.
Alright. Hook Device #1: The Question
I know, I know. It sounds simple, and it is, but I tend to use this hook more than any of the other hooks because it’s simple. You don’t have to overthink it. Ask the audience a question and then make sure your presentation answers it.
For example, with a recent client I started our session by asking him to present his entire presentation, it was about 7-minutes, just as it currently was so I could get a sense of the content. And so, he started with a story. Stories are fine hooks and can even be great hooks. The problem with stories as hooks is that they take a long time to get to the point, and unless you’re very good at telling stories, they often miss the mark as a hook. So after he told his story, which was about his love of anything robot when he was a kid, I asked him straight up: WHAT is the big fear this audience has as related to your content, ie, what you’re there to speak about? Without hesitation he said, “That robots are going to take our jobs.”
That became the hook. After being introduced, I told him, stand on stage, look at the audience and ask a question. “Will robots take our jobs?” And then look back at the audience and say, “Maybe. But maybe not.”
That will hook the audience.
Now what’s great about the question hook is a couple of things. One, questions pique the audience’s attention. Content is usually passive; we’re constantly TELLING people things. But questions are active. Even though the audience won’t answer the question we pose, it invites them to consider it and think about it as if they could answer it. That in itself is more engaging than just saying, “Robots most likely won’t take our jobs.” The second reason that the question hook is really great is that when you, as the speaker, states a question that is already on the audience’s mindit gives you credibility. It shows that you’ve considered them and their concerns and that you understand them and that you have now prepared an answer that’s going to help them.
I love the question hook.
Now, the second hook I love is what I call the shock or surprise hook. And no, this doesn’t mean shouting at the audience or taking your clothes off. Although these are hooks you might consider depending on the presentation. The shock hook is where you give the audience information that is counterintuitive, surprising or even shocking. That might, for example, be a statistic. In a recent case, for example, that I’m working on, it’s a drowning case of a child. Very sad. And one of the defense arguments is that the mom should have been watching. She was there, only a few feet away, how on earth could a child drown with the mother standing and watching? One of the statistics that shocked me in that case was that 88% of child drownings occur when a parent or other adults are present. A sad, but shocking statistic. Also a great hook to grab the audience’s attention, the audience in this case being a jury.
A counterintuitive version of the shock hook is to challenge the audience with something they think is true but actually isn’t. There’s a great book I read years ago called, Everything You Know About Love and Sex is Wrong. I bought the book based on the title alone. What does she think I know? Why is it wrong? I was hooked immediately.
You can also combine the statistic with the challenge to create a shock hook. For example, and I’m making this statistic up, “Every 10 minutes an employee steals from his or her employer. You’re most likely next.” Do you think that would hook an audience of business owners? You bet it would. Shocking statistic combined with a belief that “this could never happen to me.” GREAT hook.
Finally, and again, there are TONS more hooks, just sharing my three favorites with you today, there’s the “incomplete information” hook. This hook is where you give the audience information, but not all of it. They’re hooked because they want to find out more. For example, in our last Opening Statement Studio class, one of the lawyers stood in front of the jury and said, “This case is about a woman who went to the emergency room for an infected dog bite and five days later ended up dead.”
Uh, you better believe the jury paid attention! How is that possible? What happened? Who’s at fault? He had them the SECOND he gave the incomplete information.
Now here’s the deal with all of these hooks: our tendency is to want to, in order of the hooks I just mentioned, answer the question/explain ourselves/give complete info the MOMENT after we’ve hooked the audience. Big mistake! That’s the BEAUTY of a great hook, it not only gets the audience’s attention, it can help maintaintheir attention if you play your cards right.
In the robots taking jobs presentation, for example, he’s not going to answer the question until the END of the presentation. It’s only a 7-minute presentation, so that’s not making them wait very long. He hooks them with the question, gives the history, tells them where we are, and where we’re going and BOOM: answers the question.
For example, in the “Every 10 minutes an employee steals” presentation the presenter might go to a story to deepen her point, one where a business owner had a beloved employee who, unbeknownst to him, was embezzling funds. Later in the presentation the presenter can talk about how this can happen to anyone because it’s usually the employees we trust the most, etc. But the presenter doesn’t want to do that right away; she wants to keep the audience with her, wondering if they could be next and waiting for the presenter to help them understand how this could happen to them.
Finally in the dog bite/death case, the attorney could go to what I call the teaching section: what shouldhave happened in a case like this before telling the jury what did happen, setting up some great context for the jury on how to think about cases like this.
Getting and maintaining the attention of ANY audience these days is rare. A good hook, however, can capture your audience, and is essential to any great presentation.
Between now and the next podcast, I invite you to visit my website saridlm.com, and join us on Facebook at facebook.com/saridlm.
Have a presentation coming up? Schedule a FREE 30-minute Discovery Session with me to see if it makes sense for us to work together. The link to do this is on our website on the coaching page and is also included in the show notes.
Thanks everyone for joining us, and until we meet again, I invite you to "Find Your Voice and Speak it Powerfully."
Sari de la Motte is the host of "Sound Check" a podcast for speakers looking for tips on how to increase their "executive presence" and ability to confidently connect with their audience.