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April 2001 - Techniques for Setting the Hook

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April 2001

Techniques for Setting the Hook

The December 2000 column discussed the importance of “Setting the Hook” or gaining initial attention. This month we will tell five specific techniques or ways to get attention at the start of a speech.

Question: If you begin with a question, you will want your audience to respond in one of two ways. If you begin with-- “What has been the most significant event of your life?”--you will not expect an audible answer, for the question is a rhetorical one. But you do expect your listeners to think of an answer. The other type of question is one in which you expect an answer. The purpose is to get a unified audience reaction. “ How many of you want to double your income?”

Quotation: Without trying too hard you can usually find someone both authoritative and popular who enthusiastically supports your point of view. A copy of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations can be a real help. Appropriate quotations from persons who the audience respects will focus the attention of the audience.

Joke: Some speakers would be well advised not to open with a joke. The key is to use appropriate lead-in lines and timing. Also, it is important to put stories into believable contexts. For other considerations, look at the January 2001 Column entitled, Make Them Laugh.

Startling Statement: “When I was 14 years old I fell in love with a woman 37 feet tall.” This statement would be a novel way to start a talk about a 37-foot statue in your hometown. Remember to make the statement not only startling, but also relevant.

Establishing Common Ground: Many times you can gain the audience’s attention simply by referring to the occasion, significance of the subject, special interest of the audience, or what a previous speaker has said. These tactics establish common ground between you and your audience and cause them to be more willing to listen to what you have to say.

Whatever technique you use, remember that gaining attention at the beginning is important. It is here that your listeners will decide whether or not to listen to the rest of the talk.


Montgomery, AL
jkline@klinespeak.com


April 2001 - Techniques for Setting the Hook
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