Monday, June 6, 2011

The Hook

Public speakers are encouraged to begin with a "hook," a line that will engage their listeners. I heard a speaker last week that so engaged me that I noticed several times I was leaning toward her. I have no idea what her first line–her "hook"–was. It certainly wasn't a joke, which is so often recommended. I also found myself making small noises of approval, somewhat like an "amen, sister," at a church service. I hadn't interested in her subject; in fact, I had only attended the event out of a sense of duty. So how did she get me to respond as I did? First, she was passionate about her subject, and passion is a prime communicator. Second, she involved us directly in every step: She had found a research treasure trove at the Duke library. Were any of us Duke alumni? Her research subject had lived on such-and-such a street in Raleigh. Were any of us from Raleigh? Did we know that street? Third, when she couldn't remember a name, she asked us for the name, without any embarrassment over her lapse of memory. Most important, she treated the event, not as a lecture, but as a communal gathering of intelligent people with whom she was sharing her passion.