When you walk onto a stage, you have only a few seconds to hook your audience before they decide to grab their phone, begin doodling or tune out completely and start thinking about what they’re doing for dinner. We’ve all been there. ‘How much longer am I going to have to nod politely because I made the mistake of sitting in the front row?’
Here are six tips to help you hook any audience:
1) Lead with a Powerful Story
When you lead with a powerful story, your powerful story – a hero’s journey of failure and triumph – and that you are standing on that stage despite your struggles, we are hooked. We want to hear more from you so that we can be inspired to move past our struggles and be more powerful in the world, too.
Kevin Pearce, an Olympic snowboarder who was slated to beat Shaun White in the 2010 Olympics shares his very personal story from my TEDx Lincoln Square stage about waking up totally unable to move after he experienced a traumatic brain injury during a training run. The audience cannot do anything except stay laser focused on what Kevin is saying because he’s literally standing on stage before us, able to walk and share this powerful story. Story is super important.
2) Share an Awesome Statistic
As an example, if your talk is about literacy in the US, you could start with: “More than 36 million adults in the US cannot read above a 3rd grade level.” You have totally hooked us because we’re completely shocked and are hoping that we’re not apart of that statistic.
If your talk is about urban development, you might start your talk with: “More than half a million people in America experience homelessness every single night.”
Let’s say your talk is about obesity. “The average America eats 13 pounds of ice cream per year.”
All of these awesome stats hook us and we’re not going anywhere, we want to hear the rest.
3) Use Incredible Visuals
Susan Austin is wheelchair bound, so when she shows us the amazing visual of her scuba diving in her wheelchair a TedTalk, it is impossible to look away. Scuba diving is beautiful already, and when you see Susan diving in her chair, it is a hook we will forever welcome.
4) Arouse Curiosity
In Stanford’s 2015 commencement speech by Steve Jobs, he starts by telling us this moment is the closest he’s ever gotten to a college graduation. We’re hooked because we’re left thinking, “One of the most successful innovators ever didn’t go to college? How did he design his life? How is he so smart without an education? How do I get successful and not have to go to school?” This is all how you hook your audience.
5) Incorporate Authenticity and Theatricality
So many speakers have not considered using film or voiceovers during their talks. Tonya Harris, a Speaker Who Dares from an event that I produce, shared a text from her daughter hiding in the bathroom at school because of being bullied. She went on to share that her daughter also wrote a poem about bullying. She shared both of these things with me before her talk.
I suggested that Tonya walk onto stage with a slide of the text message, followed by her daughter’s voiceover reading the poem. After she did that, Tonya began her talk. This was extremely authentic and incredibly theatrical. This kind of theatricality is what I’m talking about. The audience was hooked, riveted, and moved beyond anything they could’ve been prepared for.
6) Refer to an Historical Event
Whether it’s WWII, Vietnam, 9-11 or the global pandemic. By referring to a historic event, you are going to connect everyone in the room to a moment in time, whether they studied it, remember where they were when it happened, or whether they lived it.
Ultimately, you have just hooked us and we are all yours.
Lead with a powerful story, share an awesome statistic using credible visuals, arouse curiosity, incorporate theatricality and authenticity, and refer to an historical event. This is a sure way to hook your audience, so you never see the tops of their heads at their next event.
Learn More About Tricia Brouk!