Hook Them Early

Public Speaking

I remember the sweat under my armpits, a dry throat, and gripping the edge of the podium hard to keep from throwing up.

Hell is [speaking in front of a large group of] other people.

Sometimes I have to speak in front of people who don’t know me at all. The biggest obstacle to acceptance is appearance. I am a short, balding, slightly pudgy guy who wears thick glasses. When I walk in front of an audience I can hear the pigeonholing happening as I come up to the podium. I have to immediately break that up.

There is a protective cognitive screen between the creator and readers of written material. It’s harder to overcome prejudice (in the strictest sense of prematurely judging) in person. My secret is to activate the desire of people to become part of a larger group. To unify them.

There are several triggers that can unify a group. Hate, anger, fear, joy, or a shared experience. Depending on the subject or setting, I pick different stimuli. When I go in front of an audience, I have to read them. Why are they here? What would they rather be doing? What is the blockage? Would a joke help? Unite them against a common irritant or foe? Use an anecdote to connect them to the experience I want to share with them? Can I appeal to their love of shiny objects?

Who are they and why would they be interested in anything I want to say?

Bring this principle back to writing.

Author, who is your audience? Why should they be interested in what you have to say? You have three sentences to win their interest.

Hook them with a shared experience, a shared emotion, a common foe.

Or… make them laugh. Laughter is the universal shared experience.

Make your reader part of your group. Then you can lead them.

–William V. Burns

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