Hook ’em.

Everyone has their pet peeves.  I have my pet loves.  Among them, really awesome opening hooks.  As in, how do you grab your audience from the first words out of your mouth. That means, ‘Thank you for having me,” or, “I’m here to discuss an idea…” are no where to be heard.

This week at TEDGlobal, among the 12 or so talks that I got to hear live (via our TEDxLive@Columbus livestream), two grabbed me:

Pamela Meyer’s talk on Lies.  She opened by accusing essentially everyone in the audience of being a liar: “The person to the right of you is a liar.  The person to the left of you is a liar.  And the person sitting in your seat is a liar.” (paraphrased since the talk is not published yet.  I’ll link it here when it is.)

Aside from an artfully chosen opening, her talk continued the same engaging cadence, weaving story and fact, detail and reason. Not to mention, she provided some great tips on how to spot a liar (hence the name of her book, Lie Spotting).

Now, if we believed in the rules of PERP (the sequence that helps audiences overcome the communication bias — Point, Example, Reason, Point), the next TEDTalk by Tim Harford, also a TEDGlobal speaker this week, violates them.  We aren’t exactly sure what his point is since he starts with his example, and he risks losing the audience by not sharing where he’s headed at the start.

But it matters not.

His opening hook story and his engaging storytelling style keeps you rapt to want to know more.  And in particular, how he’s going to weave it into a poignancy to which we’ll relate and want to hear more.

Watch it here:


Lesson is:  Make sure you have your opening hook planned carefully.  Usually I suggest writing it last after the rest of your talk is complete.  Those nervous jitters can lock you down for the first few minutes of any talk — which is when you need to be most engaged and captivating.