How To Hook your Audience in the First 20 Seconds

People don’t pay attention to boring things.

Practice this mantra before you write the opening lines of your next presentation.

According to a recent Microsoft research report, the human attention span has fallen to eight seconds, lower than that of a goldfish.

What does this mean for your speech? Unlike the goldfish, people have a choice. They will tune off, unless you force them to take notice and keep them engrossed by the sheer power of your words.

How do you overcome this barrier within the first few seconds?

“The most basic way to get someone’s attention is this: Break a pattern.”

– Chip Heath

1.Tell a story – a personal anecdote works best, when it ties in with what follows. People love stories and a kind story or an uplifting one makes them sit up and listen. Want to stir up some positive emotions in your audinece? Try a feel-good tale but stay away from those self-deprecating ones.

2.Uses quotes with a twist – everyone quotes someone else at presentations simply because it works. To drum up interest, start your lines with a quote but give those popular words a twist. Add a contradictory statement. Use movie quotes, historical ones, and foreign quotes to entertain, evoke, and impress.

3.Do a John Lennon – No one is asking you to write a song or sing on stage! Take inspiration from his popular song and ask your audience to imagine something positive or empowering. You can even use it to make them visualize a negative outcome. Ask them to imagine the consequences of not taking action or committing a huge mistake.

4.Go the statistic way – Sometimes, nothing quite grabs attention like a shocking, unpleasant or scary statistic. PETA uses this to good effect when it talks about animal farming. This works well for presentation related to both marketing and social causes. Just make sure you use up-to-date figures.

5.Rhetorical questions hold the answers – Start your presentation with a rhetorical question. Better still; make it a series of questions that get your audience thinking. Let them ponder for a while before you provide the answers.

6.Hook them with a “what if” – This is a presentation weapon that works every time. What if your attempt at humor falls flat? If a speaking coach were to use this as a hook, you’ll listen carefully to the words that follow. Your audience will pay attention when you focus on a positive outcome or offer solutions to a pressing problem at the outset.

Have you used any of these tricks to impress your audience? What kind of start has worked for you?