Are you Using These 7 Irresistible Hooks in Your Speeches?

Getting ready to give the commencement speech to 4,000 people at a University of Phoenix Graduation

If you don’t have hooks strategically sprinkled throughout your speech, chances are your audience will bail mentally if not physically.

You have to find ways to keep hooking your audience so THEY don’t want to let go.

Below you’ll find 7 irresistible hooks (in no particular order of importance) that get your audience to say, “Tell me more” or “What happened next?”

#1: The Silence Hook

I tell a story about how excited I was to meet my speaking hero. The only problem was, when I approached him, something unexpected happened. Listen here.

Did you hear the long silence? It was after I said to my speaking hero, “You’re the one who made me want to get in this business in the first place. Thank you. Thank you!” The audience laughed a bit because of my facial expressions and actions but, content-wise, it was still a silent moment.

That silence in the story becomes a hook because my audience is hungry to hear what he is going to say and then, when he doesn’t say anything, they’re ever hungrier to see what I’m going to do about it. The silent moment becomes the hook.

The problem with many speakers is they rush through the silence thereby making the potential hook much less effective. Take your time, dance in the silence, and watch your audience move to the edge of their seats. Remember…

“You can’t rush and resonate”

#2 – The Avoidance Hook

Here’s an example of an Avoidance Hook.

I tell a story about a speech I gave in Michigan when I failed miserably to the point where the meeting planner couldn’t even look me in the eyes. Then I say to my audience of speakers, “This is something you should not have to go through and you won’t if you listen closely.”

The Avoidance Hook focuses on something your audience wants to avoid. It’s important to use this type of hook because sometimes people are motivated by what they want to avoid more than by what they want to attain. If they pay attention to what you’re about to say, they can stay out of harm’s way.

#3 – The Attainment Hook

Listen to how I quickly hook one of my audiences with something they want to attain.

The Attainment Hook is just how it sounds. You simply let the audience know what they can attain if they pay attention to what’s coming next. Think results-based. I mention that they’ll be able to make a deeper connection than they ever have before. That’s certainly something they want, but I make sure to tease them before I tell them. Don’t give it up too soon. Make them wait for it and want it. That way, when they finally get it, they’ll value it and enjoy it more.

#4 The “Most People” Hook

When speaking, always keep this in mind:

“Most people don’t want to be most people”

When I used to watch the masterful presenters, I realized many of them made statements like, “Most people do this” or “Most people do that.” Whenever I heard those statements, I’d say to myself “I’m not going to be like most people. I don’t want to be average. I want to do something different. I want to be better than average.”

That’s the effect the words “most people” have on people. For example, I used to tell my audiences, “Most people live their lives on get-set. When it comes to pursuing their goals and dreams, they take their marks, they get ready, they get-set, and they never go. They live and die on get-set.”

Because “most people” are two very persuasive words, my audience members get very motivated to “go” rather than to live on “get-set.”

#5 – The Conflict Hook

Good stories have a conflict that is established early. Great stories not only establish the conflict, they also escalate it. Think about the Titanic. One of the conflicts was when they Titanic hit the iceberg. However, the escalation of the conflict was when the water rose on the Titanic. If the water never rose on the Titanic, then that would have been a terrible movie. Always think, “How can I raise the water on the Titanic in my story?”

The conflict is the hook because your audience wants to see how you will overcome it and what tools you will use. Why? Because maybe they can use similar tools for similar situations. In that way, your speech has become very useful to them.

#6 The Curiosity Hook

“After 15 years of trial and error, research, and blood, sweat, and tears, I’ve finally found out what makes the difference between a good presenter and a great one. It’s…”

That’s an example of a curiosity hook. You find ways to make your long road lead to their shortcut. After all, you traveled your long road for a reason, right? However, don’t tell them what they want to know…at least not immediately. Make them curious, tease them a little more, and then give them the tool (or solution, answer, or formula, etc.). Remember…

Let your long road lead to their shortcut

#7 Statement Hook

I often start off my keynotes with the following statement: “I was afraid to come here.” Listen to the effect this statement has on my audience. If you listen closely, you can even here someone say, “Oh no.”

The other day I spoke in Newport, Rhode Island to the US Probation Office and I started in this exact way. They laughed after I said I was afraid to come here. They wanted to know why. That’s the hook. Simply make a statement that makes your audience ask themselves a question. In this case, they should at least think, “Why were you afraid to come here?” That’s the hook.

The Early Days

In one of my first ever speeches as a speaker, I said to my audience, “Nobody has ever died from a snakebite.”

My audience wondered, “What’s he talking about? People get bitten all the time and I’m sure some of them have died.”

I then went on to tell them “It’s not the bite; it’s the venom that kills them.” I then related the venom to what happens inside of you when you don’t forgive those who have hurt (i.e. bitten) you.

The key is that the first statement hooks them in to want to know more. The rest of the story clears up and answers their questions. Remember…

“When all of your hooks are done, your speech is over”

Your Turn

Which, if any, of these kinds of hooks are you using? How have they been working for you?

Final Words on Hooks

As you can see, it’s important not only to have hooks at the beginning and end of your speeches, but to sprinkle them throughout. Oh, wait a minute! There is an 8th hook and it’s more powerful than the other 7 combined. It’s…







Craig Valentine

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