Get the Audience’s Attention: Your Opening "Hook"

Let’s face it… regardless of the type of business; we’ve all sat through some pretty bad presentations. When delivering your presentation, you have to establish the audience’s attention and buy-in within the first 30 seconds. If you don’t have their attention from the beginning AND be able to maintain interest throughout the presentation, your message is lost. To make sure you have the audience in the palm of your hand at the start of the presentation, you have to deliver an “opening hook”. What is a “hook” you ask? Well, that’s the “attention getting” device a good presenter uses to establish audience attention and cause them to immediately respond with some type of reaction. Opening “hooks” can be a variety of different devices. The following is a listing of some of the most popular “hooks” used by presenters and why they’re effective. Remember, whatever “hook” you plan to use, make sure it relates to the message you’re delivering.

  • An anecdote (or short story) from your personal history that has a connection with the message you’re delivering.
  • Use humor. Not necessarily tell a joke (unless you’re a comedian)… but put a humorous spin to the introduction of your message.
  • A statement that creates doubt or disbelief. The statement doesn’t necessarily have to be true… just a statement that will peak the audience’s interest and attention.
  • A little known / interesting fact. Use something that would create interest, but make sure that it’s not common knowledge.
  • A controversial opinion. Nothing gets the “juices” moving faster than a statement that people disagree with on an important subject. Your audience will want to stay around to see what you’re going to say next.
  • An interesting statistic. This statistic could be a surprising revelation to members of the audience.
  • A current event. Everybody hears the news at some point, even if it’s 5 minutes of cable news during the day or glancing at a newspaper headline while in the convenience store.
  • A “Theatrical” performance. Being an actor, I have a tendency to use “hooks” that involve an element of stage performance. Now the audience wonders what I’m going to do next.
  • A quote. It doesn’t have to be from someone famous. It just has to be appropriate and timely.

There are others…

The “hook” forces the audience to make choices. Do they agree or disagree with what has been said? Are they or are they not engaged by the performance factor of the “hook”? Do they laugh or try to keep a stoic face? Regardless… the opening hook sets the tone for the remainder of the presentation. Now that you’ve got their attention, how do you keep it? That involves introducing “timely grabs” throughout your presentation to maintain interest and a topic for another article. Until next time.