Effective Presentations

a photo of a hook

Find a “Hook” for your next presentation

How do you distinguish yourself from other speakers so audience members will not forget you? You don’t want to blend in with other speakers so that neither your message nor you are remembered.
Don’t let the audience forget you

A major way to remain unforgettable to an audience is a “hook:” something unique about you or an uncommon approach to a common subject.
For me the hook is the auction. I grew up in an auctioneer family. As a boy, I learned the auctioneer’s chant from my uncle. At weekly consignment auctions, Uncle Mark would let me conduct parts of the auction. My love for the auction continued as I began to speak regularly. I’ve been able to incorporate the auctioneer’s chant into my speeches.

I use the analogy that life is an auction–that we are continually selling ourselves to people by what we say and how we say it. I wrote a poem about the auction that I often use near the end of my speech.In addition, for clients I can conduct a charity auction with items vendors or members of their organization donate for the auction. I find that this is a good addition to the speech they have asked me to deliver. The organization advertises the auction and encourages donated items.

Once at a Phoenix program, a Lute Olsen autographed basketball brought several hundred dollars from an avid University of Arizona fan. Donated items which represent a state or school or business will bring big bucks for a scholarship fund or whatever may be the favored charity of the organization.

The organization for which I do the auction makes money on the auction and in the process the people remember me in a positive light.You may not want to go to that extreme, but consider past jobs, hobbies, unique experiences, books you’ve read, places you have visited or lived, or unusual people you have met. In any of these situations there might be a hook you could draw from to make you unforgettable to your audience.

Not only do you want the audience to listen carefully while you speak, but you also want the audience members to keep thinking about you and your message long afterwards. A hook can make certain that they do exactly that.

Getting the audience to Listen

It’s frustrating to be talking to someone when you can tell the person is not listening. Short of saying, “Please listen to me!” here are some ways to ensure that you will be listened to.

Start with the point you want to make and then give your support for it. If the person can’t figure out quickly why you are having the conversation, listening may be difficult. Examples might be, “I want to talk to you about the budget for our proposal,” or “We can make our goal if we just get a few more people to participate.”

Make eye contact, especially when you are stressing the key reason for the conversation. Eye contact is a visual handshake; it is the way you connect nonverbally with the other person. Don’t stare at the person, but regularly connect with your eyes. When you look at the person you are saying, “Pay attention to me.”

Point to an object or piece of paper you are holding (with a reason, of course) and the person will look at the object or paper as you discuss it. This will return attention to you if the person has been wandering away mentally, for the natural thing to do next is to look back at you.

Use words which stress the importance of what you are going to say next. Such expressions include, “Probably most important of all is..,” “I can’t stress this enough..,” “Please keep the following in mind.. ,” “I didn’t realize this was so important until…”

Use the people in the audience’s names occasionally as you speak. Our names always attract our attention. We had a neighbor who always held my attention because he would use my name frequently in any conversation.

Refer to specific people, places, statistics, and situations as you talk. The more specific you are with your remarks, the more likely it is that the person will listen to you—especially if the person can identify with your specific references. For example, instead of “We need to get this information to all of our clients in the Midwest,” you might say “We need to get this information to our clients in Indianapolis, St. Louis, Chicago, and Minneapolis.”Certainly listening to the other person first is most important, but you want to be heard as well. Use these suggestions and your listener will be encouraged to pay close attention.

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is a professor of speech communication at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Kentucky.  He works with organizations that want to speak and listen more effectively to increase personal and professional performance.   He can be reached at 800-727-6520 or visit http://www.sboyd.com for free articles and resources to improve your communication skills.


Published On: 3rd Jun 2012

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