by Guila Muir
What’s the best way to assure your training participants groan inwardly and “turn off” when you first open your mouth? Simply by doing what you’ve always been told: By introducing yourself and providing your credentials.
Why not generate your audience’s curiosity, interest, and investment from the outset? Use a “Hook” before introducing yourself or your professional credentials. If your hook is well-crafted, you will have already gained credibility when you do introduce yourself. The participants will be much more open to hearing your message.
What is a Hook?
First, what a hook is NOT:
- An extended exercise or activity
- An irrelevant joke
- An apology of any kind
- A meandering, “off-the-cuff” mumble meant to make YOU more comfortable in front of the class.
A Hook is a short, carefully crafted statement that indicates you know who your audience is and what they care about. It should elicit some sort of emotion in your listeners, whether that is quiet reflection, hilarious recognition of a feeling or situation, or sorrow. The emotion doesn’t have to be “positive.” But it must resonate with your audience and its memories or experiences, while being relevant to your subject.
Three Ideas for Powerful Hooks
Create a 3-5-question quiz and ask participants to take it the minute they sit down. It’s best if the questions are slightly provocative or controversial. Throughout the class, answer and clarify the issues.
Here’s a “real-life” example currently being used in a Risk Management class for supervisors:
• What percentage of claims and incidents filed against this company were closed last year without payment?
• If an employee is sued because of an act s/he committed within the scope of their duties, the employee must provide his/her own legal defense. (T/F)
• This company is self-insured for Auto Liability and General Liability. (T/F)
Carefully constructed questions are often the easiest and most powerful “Hooks.” Questions can begin with the words “How many here have…?” or “Did you know that…?” Your question should demand a physical response from the participants, such as nodding, raising hands, even standing up.
This technique gives even “dry” subjects the emotional content you need to hook the learners’ interest.
Here’s a real-life example of a visualization “Hook” from a supervisory class on wage and hour laws: “Close your eyes and imagine that you are a 10 year old child in the 1930’s working in a factory 12 hours a day, 60 hours a week for 10 cents an hour. You’ve never seen the inside of a school…your feet are cold and you get just one meal break a day. How do you feel?” Ask the participants to open their eyes. Debrief thoughts and feelings; connect to the course topic and state the learning outcomes.
Remember: to keep your audience actively engaged from the get-go, you must HOOK their interest in the first few minutes of class. Wait until they’re hooked to introduce yourself!