Whether you are preparing a speech or presentation or seeking to improve your public speaking, the most defining aspect of any famous speech is its opener. How have your previous speeches opened? Could they have benefitted from a bold and snappy line that immediately calls the attention of the listener? Maybe you could benefit from a “hook”.
“Fellow-citizens, pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today?”
Those were the opening lines of Frederick Douglass, the former slave and accomplished orator’s renowned speech, “The Hypocrisy of American Slavery” in 1852. The captivating opening line cleverly pointed out how strange it was for a former slave to be called upon to speak on Independence Day. This one opening line gave the audience an insight into the tone his speech will take and draws their attention to what he is about to talk about.
What is a speech hook?
The hook is a part of a presentation or speech that will draw the audience’s attention and compel them to listen to what you have to say. The hook is best placed at the beginning of your speech so that you have your audience’s attention from the very start. It is common for your presentation to be one of many, and audiences may be finding it hard to stay interested. A hook engages your listeners and keeps them interested.
Resonate with your audience
This is one key element to a successful speech. Choose a topic for your speech and the opening line that will be of general interest to the majority of people in the audience. Many people do this by treating their opener as a newspaper headline, beginning with a short and snappy sentence that sums up what the entire speech will be about. If you are familiar with the interests of your audience and listeners, you can design an opener that will specifically relate to their particular interests.
Surprise the listener
In many industries, people are used to hearing many presentations and speeches so yours is at risk of becoming predictable. Avoid this by opening with an unexpected direction – something they would never expect. We wouldn’t recommend choosing an opening topic at random, but consider your themes and find a logical but alternative way to begin your presentation.
The most impactful starts to a presentation are the concise ones. Sometimes speakers choose to begin with a story, and as relevant and insightful as this may be, they almost always go on for too long to keep an audience hooked. Presentations are usually on a time limit, so craft an opening that draws the audience’s attention quickly, so that you can get on with delivering them all the important information.
Tap into a larger ideal or issue
The purpose of every speech and presentation should be to evolve and transform your audience’s way of thinking, changing their world in one way or another. Your chosen topic is merely a doorway to a much larger ideal or issue. Every great speech in history has taken its smaller subject matter and placed it into the context of a much larger scale, from freedom to protecting the environment, to ending war. Placing the topics and subjects of your speech on a much wider scale will make it easier for your audience to resonate with you.
There you have it – improving your speech with a hook that is resonant, surprising and concise can evolve your presentation skills as a whole. Learn how to draw your listeners in, and you will have them hanging on your every word.
Global Conference Speaker, Trainer & Mentor on Executive Presence | Storytelling | Sales Presentation – Inspiring Trust & Compassion To Achieve ROI – Delivery Experience 25+ Years | Best-Selling Author®