You’re probably wondering what Goldilocks and the Three Bears has to do with effective business communication. At least I hope you are, because what I want to show you is that effective business communication frequently requires a hook, something that grabs your audience’s attention.
I was reminded of this recently while preparing a virtual presentation for a group of lawyers. Lawyers are a tough crowd. They typically have high-level communication skills and write very well. But that doesn’t mean that their writing is beyond criticism. Sometimes lawyers err on the side of being overly formal, and the point of my presentation was to help them determine the right degree of formality. I found myself wracking my brain trying to figure out how to engage them in a way that would easily lead into the subject matter.
As you know, a tried and true way to engage just about anyone is through a story. Just as children find it difficult to resist anything that starts with “once upon a time,” adults also find stories compelling. Fortunately, I had this “aha” moment about the story I wanted to use for this occasion: Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
“Remember how the story goes,” I told them. “Goldilocks went into the house in the woods, and saw these three bowls of porridge. The first was too hot, and she couldn’t finish it. The second, too cold. She couldn’t finish that one either. But the third one was just right. She ate it all.”
By this time the lawyers were looking a little confused, but they certainly were listening. It was at this well-timed moment that I pointed out the connection between Goldilocks and her porridge to the optimal level of formality in legal communication — or indeed, any communication. It’s all about getting it “just right.” You need your audience to understand the message you are trying to convey. You need them to finish their porridge! And a good hook is often the best way to make sure that happens.
Fairy tales are not the only possible hooks, of course. But whatever kind of hook you use, know that its benefits are multiple. A good hook gives your audience a sense of who you are. A good hook is memorable. A good hook is a warm up — it opens people up to whatever follows. And here are six tips for grabbing your audience’s attention with a good hook.
How to create a good hook
-Humor: ‘Make ‘em laugh,’ as the song in Singing in the Rain says.
-Wisdom: Start with a meaningful and relevant quotation.
-Controversy: Begin with a statement that offers a point of immediate discussion.
-Question: Ask a question that makes your audience think.
-Anecdote: Tell a personal story to which people may relate.
-Story: Tell a familiar story that illustrates the point you are hoping to make.
The above are just a few examples of possible ways to create a good hook. You may have more suggestions, and I’d love to hear them. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Who knows, I might even be willing to tell you a story.