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.