Hooking Your Audience

Hooking your audience is key to drawing them in and holding their attention. A hook is a crucial part of your speech consisting of your opening words that serves to prick the ears of the audience and make them want to hear more.

If you get your presentation off on the right foot, you’ll have a much better chance of holding your listeners’ attention to the end.

The Best Bait for the Job

There are many ways to grab your audience’s attention.

  • – You can surprise them with a fact they probably don’t know: “Did you know that pigs are physically incapable of looking up at the sky while standing?” That could apply to a speech about thinking outside of the box or one that seemingly has nothing to do with your subject until you fill them in.
  • – You can use a story to reel them in. Telling a great story gets people interested in your point of view and makes them want to hear more about how the story ties in to your presentation. In the video below Martin Presse talks about how to do this effectively. A story also serves as a great takeaway that, when done well, is easy to remember and helps your audience remember what you said long after your speech is over.



  • – You can share a personal experience. Tell the audience something about yourself that they can relate to. Perhaps something specific happened in your life that brought you to where you are now. Share that with your audience as a way of illustrating that you understand their situation because you have lived it yourself and have some wisdom to share now.
  • – You can ask for audience involvement. “Imagine a world where…” Getting people to participate by thinking draws them in and makes them feel like they are a part of your presentation. It also provides a great touchstone for your wrap up. You can refer back to your opening after talking about how your product or idea can help make that world a reality for them.
  • – You can use a proverb. Foreign proverbs are especially useful because many people will not have heard them before.

Practice Reeling Them In

Look back at the opening of one of your previous speeches and think about how you can improve it. Practice adding a proverb or a story or mine the Internet for an interesting but little-known fact about something you can tie in to your speech.

Or get ready for an upcoming speech using one of these techniques.

Think about the kind of impact you want to have on your audience when choosing a technique. Do you want them motivated to a specific action? Try sharing personal experience or asking for their involvement.

Be sure to let me know it went! Want more great tips for hooking your audience? Sign up for my weekly email tips to sharpen your speaking skills in the public arena!

Also leave me a comment to share your thoughts on this post.

Please follow and like us:

Audience Engagement

Audience engagement. It’s important, but not as difficult to master as you might imagine. If you’ve been visiting this site and reading and practicing the guidelines I provide for improving your speaking skills, you already have a great start! That’s because strong speaking skills are the very foundation of audience engagement.

Audience engagement is important because you want your listeners focused on you and your message from the beginning. It’s easy for them to drift off at any time and, once you’ve lost them, it’s difficult to recapture them. So today I’m going to look at some ways to get them engaged even before your presentation begins and keep them attentive all the way to the end.

On Your Mark, Get Ready…

If you know your audience members, send them an email a few days before the speech asking them some questions to get them thinking. You can ask them what they already know about the subject, what they hope to learn, what their biggest obstacle is, or anything else to engage them ahead of time.

Be sure you will have what you need on hand ahead of time. Visit the room you’ll speak in, even if you are already familiar with it. Stand up front and look around. Think about what you plan to say. Will you need anything to support visuals, if you are using them? A screen? Projector? Computer? Is there a podium and, if not, do you want one? Being sure your presentation space is staged properly ahead of time will enable you to focus on your speech, rather than looking for things you need while you are talking.

Get Set…

The U.S. Center for Disease Control recommends that “adults aged 18–60 years sleep at least 7 hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being.” But it also says that about 35% of us aren’t getting that. Try to get a good night’s sleep at least a couple of nights before your presentation. Adrenaline goes a long way when you are speaking, but a good night’s rest will ward off brain fog and forgetfulness while you are speaking. You won’t be as likely to lose your place or stumble through your speech.


It the day of! Did you get a good night’s sleep and have breakfast? These may seem like small things, but they will help power you through the day.

Is your group large? You can include a “show of hands” opening question. If you have a small group, ask the audience members to introduce themselves. Getting them moving and talking is a great way to get their brains firing and increase interest in you and what you have to say. It also helps put everyone more at ease, including you.

Ask for a volunteer to help make your point. Having someone from the audience on the stage creates interest and breaks up your speech.

Try a visual or two. Don’t let PowerPoint or Prezi visuals take over your presentation. Use just one or two to emphasize important points. A large image with no more than ten words on the screen is best. Images that invoke emotions or include a call to action are good choices.

Tell a story. Using stories to illustrate your presentation gets your audience involved by calling on their imagination and making them want to hear how your story ends. Spread pieces of the story throughout your presentation at the beginning, middle, and end.

Break into small groups if there is time and have each group discuss some aspect of the subject. Set a time limit as ask for a brief report from either some or all of the groups, depending on the time available. This engages them with each other and gives them additional ideas to take back.

So there you have it. Give some of these ideas for audience engagement a shot and let me know how it goes!

Please follow and like us:

Pausing for Effect

In the 1980 film Star Wars, the hero, Luke Skywalker, is fighting his arch nemesis, Darth Vader. Darth asks Luke what he knows about his father and Luke says he knows enough.

“No.” says Darth Vader.

“I am your father.”

Listen to the pause Darth Vader uses to emphasize this horrible news.

The pause is an effective tool that can be used in a variety of ways to punch up your speech. Darth Vader uses it for dramatic effect.

When and Why?

The Opening: You don’t have to start speaking the instant you take the stage. You should feel free to position yourself, adjust the microphone as needed and make eye contact with some of your audience before you begin. This will give them the opportunity to focus on you and what you are about to say, which will give your opening sentence more punch.

A Replacement for Fillers: If you find yourself using speech fillers such as “um” or “like” or “uh”, you can use a pause instead. A pause sounds intentional whereas filler words show that you are nervous or may be under-prepared.

Audible Punctuation: The punctuation you use when writing a speech or creating a presentation is invisible to the audience when you deliver it. You can use pauses as part of your vocal variety toolbox. A short of pause of “one one-thousand” said silently in your head can stand for a comma or a colon.

A slightly longer one can indicate the end of a sentence, especially when it comes at the end of a major section of your speech.

Dramatic Effect: As in the example of Darth Vader above, a pause can be used to create tension or emphasize the next point you want to make. Silence always draws attention. Another example of this is the teacher in the classroom who stops talking to regain her distracted students’ attention.

This is the kind of pause that says “Listen!” I’m about to say something important.

Give Yourself a Break: You may find yourself needing a short break during your presentation. If you are nervous or out of breath or find that you are speaking too fast, you can just pause for a few seconds. This will allow you to take a sip of water or catch your breath. Pausing between major ideas in your presentation is similar.

It will also give the audience time to let what you have been saying sink in before you move on. Pausing in this way is not unusual and your audience will understand that you are just a second before you move on.

It’s Your Turn!

Take a speech you have been working on and see where you could add a pause or two. Consider using one in between the major sections of your presentation or to emphasize a particularly important thought. You can go through the text of your speech and replace some commas or periods with a pause. Consider using a heavy apostrophe above the place you want to pause.

Try rehearsing the speech with the pauses in place. Record it if you can and let me know how it went. Did you see or feel a difference in your performance? I would love to know what you thought!

Please follow and like us:

Being Positive Makes Your Speech More Successful

It’s easy to forget that having a generally positive outlook on life affects us in many ways. We talk about getting up on the wrong side of bed or seeing the glass half empty or full.

It’s also easy to let a bad mood dictate how our day will go, how we will treat other people, and how we are perceived by our friends, family, and colleagues.

It naturally follows, then, that a positive attitude reflects well on us when we are speaking to others. So what can we do to “be of good cheer” more often?

Let’s take a look at some time-honored advice on the subject that has held up over the decades for very good reasons…the ideas behind them work!

Make a Choice

Fake it till you make it” is an old cliché that actually works! There is a great deal of research that proves that a sincere smile elevates mood and lowers stress, including one study mentioned at Forbes.com.

A genuine smile, scientifically known as a Duchenne smile, has much more impact than a forced one.

Guillaume Dechenne was a mid-19th century French neurologist who made the observation that a genuine smile uses muscles around both the mouth and the eyes, where as a forced one does not engage the eye muscles.

Use of the mouth and eye muscles when smiling, it was noted, can impact brain waves which in turn, may elevate mood.

Practicing a genuine smile when you aren’t in the best of moods can change your mindset and improve your outlook on the world and those around you. This will come through to others whether you are in one-on-one conversations, or addressing a group of people.

Make a Difference

Volunteering to help others can give our own emotions a boost. We sometimes hear people say that they “get more than they give” when they volunteer. They are usually referring to the gratitude that comes from those you are helping.

We also know that volunteering can help reduce stress and calm our nerves.

A few years ago, I spoke with a friend whose wife had left him on Christmas Eve just a year into their marriage.

He went to his church and spoke with his pastor who listened to him as he talked and cried, then as part of a suggested escape he sent him out to deliver meals that the church had prepared for those who couldn’t afford to feed themselves.

My friend reported that the act of helping others during his own crisis boosted his spirits and helped him get through the most difficult night of his life.

It’s Your Turn

The next time your day gets off to a less-than-ideal start, take a moment to refocus yourself and think about what you have to be grateful for. Then try an out-loud laugh to get a genuine smile on your face. You should feel at least a small difference right away!

Seek ways to give back to your community by donating your time to a local project or cause. The good you give to others will come back to you many times over.

I encourage you to join the conversation on the wide variety of simple techniques you can use to improve your speaking skill through my weekly newsletter.

Let me know what you think!

Please follow and like us:

Using A Catchphrase In Your Presentation

If one of your goals is to leave your audience with something to remember, try using a catchphrase. Catchphrases, also known as slogans, are brief memorable phrases or sentences that carry a message about a particular product or service.

Do you recognize these?

  • Yes We Can
  • I’m Lovin’ it!
  • Just Do It!
  • Got Milk?
  • Every kiss begins with Kay.
  • Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.
  • The Few. The Proud. The Marines.

What do you notice about them?


None of these are more than half a dozen words long. They use basic words, are easy to understand and easy to remember. They trigger instant brand recognition far and wide. And they sometimes pop into your head for no apparent reason!


In just a few words these marketers can create a strong emotional reaction. Just hearing them can make you feel hungry, cause you to smile, or feel national pride.

Kay’s Jewelers’ “Every kiss begins with Kay’s” evokes feelings of warmth and romantic love.

Hungry? These are all emotions that stimulate a strong reaction in your brain, which also makes them memorable.


Another reason these catchphrases are memorable is because we encounter them all the time. On the radio, television and in print, they are everywhere. They easily fit on billboards and can be read in their entirety by drivers on the interstate.


The catchphrases listed above are for national brands. If your business is a local one you may want to target your city’s intended audience more specifically.

For example, “Storing Sunshine in Sacramento Since 2014” would be a good one for an alternative energy company located in Sacramento. If your brand reaches beyond a single city or has plans to you might go with “Storing Sunshine Since 2014”.

It’s best to stick with more general phrasing if your intended audience is a larger one.

Call to Action

The California Milk Processor’s Board asks if you “Got Milk?”  Most people who drink milk respond mentally with an equally-enthusiastic “Yes!” If the person doesn’t have milk it sets up a mental note to buy milk next time you are shopping.

“Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.” is the Beef Industry Council’s slogan. For beef consumers it causes a reactionary agreement or confirmation as well as mentally filling in a slot on your upcoming shopping list and dinner menu.

Your turn!

Try writing a catchphrase yourself.

  1. – Grab some paper and write down a few words to describe what you do.
  2. – Which ones stand out? What do you want your audience to know and remember?
  3. – Pick some key words and try playing around with them.
  4. – When you come up with a phrase, repeat it several times. How easily does it roll off of your tongue? Can you remember it the next day without having to think too hard about it?
  5. – Play around with a few phrases until you settle on one you like.

It’s a lot of fun to play around with slogans and catchphrases. Let me know what you came up with!

Please follow and like us: