I got some amazing advice this past week from a seasoned communicator.
I delivered a speech at my friendly neighborhood Toastmaster club (The Plaza 400 Club) and decided to begin with a hook opening. A hook, in this context, is where you say something to grab the audience’s attention before continuing with acknowledgments, salutations and the rest of the speech opening.
A quotation, a statistic, a question, or a strong statement are all great hooks.
I chose a bold statement:
“Each of us has a distinct travel style – just as we have our own writing style, singing style, and presentation style. However, very few of us pay attention to that travel style – and that is a mistake!”
My speech evaluator, the Distinguished Toastmaster Fred Punko, noted that while this statement opened the speech strong, it also distracted. As a experienced traveler, he does think about how he travels and found himself reconciling an unintended slight. His point was that a presenter needs to avoid the possibility of offending audience members in their opening because it will distract them and impair their ability to listen to the message; much like a poor first impression.
With that in mind I rewrote this hook for my next delivery:
“Each of us has a distinct travel style – just as we have our own writing style, singing style, and presentation style. And; Paying attention to how we travel, is just as important as where we travel. ”
Small tweak that I hope will pay dividends. I may loose the lost opportunity bite that the original brings but I trade that for reducing the risk of disrespecting and alienating audience members right of the bat. In other words, I’ve started bold – not brash.
Another win for the immediate, mutually supportive feedback that a Toastmaster environment can provide. That said, I’m interested in your additional suggestions on how to make this hook opening even better.