Everyone’s always looking for the hook

Books on public speaking often focus on the ‘transmit’ angle of unlocking the business voice, and neglect the equally important ‘receive’ angle – the angle that sees speakers put their audience into the strongest position for listening. Oddly, putting too much effort into preparing our own side of a presentation can work to our detriment, causing us to become fixated on only our side of the equation. It may seem strange that being too familiar with our subject can reflect poorly on us, but when presenting it is easy to forget that the audience is hearing this material for the first time. As a speaker, we have spent a lot of time becoming familiar with the material, and forget that the audience has not. Writing for C-Suite, Simon reveals why it is so important to hook the audience early on.


Reverse tactics
The trick is to start by introducing your audience to your conclusion. This gives them that golden nugget, that engages their interest and encourages them to listen to the rest of your presentation to fill in the gaps. As you prepare your presentation, it is important to distance yourself from the need to know every little detail of your subject, as this can distract you from the main thing that your audience wants to hear: what they can expect to achieve by taking on your idea.

A while back I worked with a senior project manager who was part of a multi-national private sector organisation. He habitually hated being asked to give someone ‘the headlines’ of a presentation, as he felt compelled to take his audience on the same journey and thought process that he had been on when planning his speech. He wanted to work through the details, identify the problems, present research and how a particular situation fit into the wider context of the company. He felt that he would only be able to communicate solutions by working in this order.

He knew that senior stakeholders were busy people, and often worked hard to know his point inside and out so that he could deliver it in the most efficient way possible. This is the real problem: despite being taught throughout school to ‘show your working’, in the business world, people only seem to want the end point and none of the substance that leads up to it. For this reason, we have to learn to hook our audience from the getgo and make the message easier to receive.

The hourglass principle
This is where my hourglass principle comes into play. Imagine turning a wooden-framed hourglass and seeing the sand run smoothly from the upper bulb to the lower. You should build your presentation content in the same way: one grain at a time, until you reach your conclusion, which in this case, is represented by the last few grains of sand now sat on the top of the pile.

In order to unlock your business voice, turn the hourglass over again. The sand falls in the opposite order to the way it just did, sending your conclusion grains into the empty chamber first, with the rest of the content following it. This is the way people tend to feel most comfortable – and engaged – with receiving information.

If you have ever been told you waffle too much and to get to the point, flip that switch from ‘transmit’ to ‘receive’ in order to get your message across in an effective way that motivates your audience to take action. By putting your content into an order that engages the listener, rather than just speeding through it to make sure you get it all out, you approach presentation in the most efficient and engaging way.

Don’t forget these tips when approaching an audience for presentation:

  • Take a breath
  • Use open and engaging body language that the audience will feel welcomed by
  • Make regular and authentic eye contact with each individual, and don’t feel scared to smile
  • If and when required, turn your dial up a notch
  • Most important of all – be authentic

Read the full article on C-Suite here

Everyone’s always looking for the hook