Did you know that the average human attention span is just 7 minutes? That’s right, It means you have just 7 minutes to hook the audience to your speech before they start to tune out. It may seem hard to believe, but it’s true.
Whether you’re giving a speech or presentation, it’s essential to hook your audience right from the start to keep them engaged throughout.
Now, imagine you are about to present to a room full of people on a glorious summer day. While you’re prepping to be your best self with your notes, facts, and that funny pun, your audience is probably dreaming of sipping fruity drinks at a white sand beach as waves hit the shoreline.
In that case, how would you make them snap out of their dreamland and focus on what you have to say?
This is where knowing how to hook an audience is lifesaving.
The first and most important way to engage the audience is to start with a good hook and build your way from there.
Are you unsure what a hook is or how to effectively use one? Keep reading and learn from a seasoned Ted Talk speaker who can share their expertise on the matter.
A hook or attention grabber is an important element of a speech. It is the part of the presentation crafted, in a way, to encourage the audience to sit and pay attention.
A hook should be placed at the beginning of your presentation where it will have the most impact. You can use different hooks throughout your presentation to make sure you never lose your audience.
A good hook gives you a space in the audience’s mind and lets them know right away that you are an interesting speaker. Listeners stay with you throughout the presentation if you start with an effective hook or opener, that is, as long as the body of the speech does not fall short of expectations. But, it all starts with that hook.
As Plato said — “The beginning is the most important part of the work.”
To understand the importance a hook plays, you must take a look at bad hooks and how they affect your presentation.
Imagine you’re Rob, and you have to deliver a presentation about — Socks!
There isn’t a faster way to shut down the audience than to begin your presentation by mumbling,
“Hello, my name is Rob, and for the next 45 minutes I’m going to be talking about the importance of socks.”
What’s wrong with this opening?
Instead, if Rob had taken a few minutes to rethink the hook of his presentation and began with an interesting statement, things would have been different.
For example, if Rob had introduced a ‘What if’ scenario, the audience’s interest
Imagine a world without socks. (Pause). What would it be like?
would immediately spike.
Doesn’t that sound like a winning formula to talk about?
To get there, check out our 8 public speaking tips on how to hook an audience.
People love bold claims, things that go against the norm, and want to hear more. You can use this in your presentation by opening up. The same goes for presentations. To capture their attention, be bold and original with your claims, share unpopular opinions, and give your reasoning for the same.
For example — Most people would rather die than go up on a stage. The fear of public speaking among people exceeds the fear of death. Can you believe it’s more acceptable to die than say your piece in front of an audience?
Such an opening would immediately hook your audience as they would want to know more about it.
This tactic is quite successful as an attention grabber for speeches. It can help engage the audience right away.
The questions are quite interesting, honestly.
Asking the right questions can give you answers to almost anything in the world.
Asking the right rhetorical questions can fetch you an attentive audience that’s eager to listen to you.
Most public speakers use this tactic to begin their presentations. For example, What is so great about Apple?…. What makes them stand out? A series of rhetorical questions engage the audience’s mind as they think about the answers. This is the easiest solution to your problem of how to hook an audience.
A catchphrase or a compelling sound bite makes a great hook that perks up the audience. A catchphrase or soundbite, usually, is an intriguing way of wording a normal message.
You can create your catchphrase by taking your message and packaging it in a brief and compelling statement that fits your overall topic or message.
For example — The wicked tend to win.
This is a strong statement with a deep meaning that reveals itself slowly as you think about it. This sort of strategy amps up your presentation skills and teaches you how to hook an audience.
When you run out of ideas and can’t figure out how to hook an audience, use amazing facts or surprising statistics at the beginning of your presentation. This is an easy and surefire way to get people’s attention.
Take your time and research the amazing stats that show the gravity of what you’re talking about.
For example, a presentation on environmental protection might begin with a strong fact about pollution, global warming, and so on.
A presentation about the healthcare system can begin with a fact such as – About 90% of people who have a cardiac arrest die before they reach the hospital.
Every present is in one way or another a significant day in history. All you have to do is figure out how.
Including a reference to a historical event in your presentation gives it depth, a new angle for you to explore, and most importantly spikes up the audience’s interest in your presentation.
Good attention grabbers in public speaking often include mentioning a historical event. It could be possible that the day you present may have some historical significance. If it can be tied to the subject of your presentation, it would be a good idea to use it as an opening gambit.
Even if you don’t already know, you can quickly look up what happened on any day in publications like Today In Sport or This Day In History. You never know what sort of gem you may end up finding that will add some pizzazz to your presentation.
One of the favorite tricks in a public speaker’s book is the word Imagine.
It’s such a magical word that can take your audience to another world while they sit and patiently listen to you. What else would be a better way to hook an audience than to make them imagine a startling scenario?
There is something quite leader-like in asking the audience to play along with you during your presentation and conjure up their imagination. It invites the audience to participate in your presentation to create a mental image of something relevant to the subject.
Public speakers usually deploy this tactic when they want the audience to imagine a positive outcome or a vision of a better tomorrow. You can also use this as the opening hook to set the tone of the presentation and ask the audience to imagine being in someone else’s shoes.
If you want to go the extra mile to make your presentation interesting; but can’t figure out how – it is time to take inspiration from the performance arts and use props to enhance your presentation.
You can play a video/audio or perform a micro act at the start of a presentation to perk up your audience.
Powerful attention grabbers are there to ignite curiosity in the audience’s mind.
But how can you do that?
You can start your speech with an exciting statement that arouses interest. It must be designed to make the audience look up and listen to you attentively.
For example — When I was 6, My mom said something to me, and it has stayed with me throughout my life. Those few words that came out of her mouth changed my life.
After building the curiosity leading to the story, the speaker would reveal the information and hook the audience.
If you’re looking to take your public speaking skills to the next level, mastering the art of storytelling is an essential skill. Learn storytelling tips and tricks and master them.
Hooks, opening statements, and attention grabbers are just one tiny bit of the art of public speaking. They are significant, but a good hook alone can not do anything for you.
An effective public speaker would have a good hook, confident body language, appropriate gestures, relevant speech content, audio/visual aids, and much more.
While an opening statement can help you hook an audience for a few seconds, it would take a comprehensive effort to make your presentations successful.
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Now that you have these eight effective public speaking tips to hook your audience, it’s time to take your skills to the next level and become a dynamic speaker.
By incorporating these tips and continuing to develop your technique, you can engage and captivate your audience with ease, leaving a lasting impression every time you speak.
By now, you must be ready with all the necessary pointers you want to cover and some captivating hooks in your back pocket. The next time you have an opportunity to give a speech, surprise everyone with your tricks to hook an audience.
But, if you start getting nervous, remember, it’s not unusual. Just take a deep breath. Use the public speaking tips above and know how to hook an audience with your next speech. Your confidence will skyrocket, and your audience will keep coming back for more.
Be it a business presentation or a motivational speech, it’s useless if it doesn’t hook the audience. As sad as it may sound, it’s true.
A public speaker is only successful if they can captivate their audience long enough to listen to their whole piece. So, if you have been struggling with delivering a striking presentation or worry your speech may not stand out, take help from hooks.
Learning to craft and use attention-grabbing hooks is one of the many paths that lead public speakers to their glory.
So, learn and apply these public speaking tips to hook an audience and ensure your next speech leaves a mark on the audience.
Jeremiah O’Brian is a faculty member at the USC School of Dramatic Arts. His exceptionally diverse background – from gritty nuts-and-bolts firefighting to film and theatre credits and accolades – is bolstered by his several graduate degrees.