Public Speaking: Using Hooks


  • To improve public speaking skills
  • To practice different types of hooks
  • To practice with different audiences


  • Whiteboard/chalkboard
  • Dry erase markers/chalk
  • Paper
  • Pens or pencils
  • Magazines and/or newspapers
  • “Hooks” handout (1 per participant)
  • “Audience & Purpose” handout (1 copy)

Prepare Before

Cut up the Audience and Purpose handout.

Warm Up

Have you ever seen an ad for the nightly news?  What do they do to get your attention?   Or a headline online?  What kinds of things get you to click a headline?  What gets you to watch a new TV show, the nightly news, or a sports event?

Ever heard something like, “Find out who won a million dollars at 11pm on Channel 2,” or, “This couple couldn’t believe what they found in their backyard”?


The samples above are known in the advertising world as “hooks.”  What’s a hook that you know of or have heard of before? (Answers might include fishing hook, the hook of a song, a hook and eye.)

Why would a presenter want to use a hook?

In teams of 4-6 or in table teams, look through magazines, newspapers, or video news clips to find five hooks that they will show to the full group. (Note that in newspapers, the hooks are often in the headlines, the pictures, or in the first sentence of the story.)  Have teams share their hooks with the full group.


Facilitate a discussion with the following reflection questions:

  • What hooks were effective?  Why?
  • How can a presenter use a hook to get a presentation started?
  • How could we use hooks to get our audience interested or involved?


Hooks are great tools to use at the beginning of a presentation to grab people’s attention.  For public speaking, here are some examples of hooks:

  • Describe an incident
  • Ask for a show of hands
  • Ask a question
  • Make a promise
  • Get them laughing
  • Make a provocative statement
  • Cite an unusual or shocking statistic
  • Use a visual aid or prop


PART 1: Brainstorming hooks for our project

Think about our research project. In teams of 1-3, distribute the Hooks Sheet. Each team should come up with possible hooks for each category and pick two that they would be willing to demonstrate in front of the full group. Try to make them as realistic as possible. If, however, you don’t have all the data for statistics, make one up that sounds reasonable.

Once they complete the sheet, teams should briefly demonstrate their hook as authentically as possible.

After all the teams, present ask the following reflection questions:

  • What hooks felt most natural for you?
  • Which ones felt fake or hard to do?
  • Where there any hooks that we didn’t use or rarely use?

PART 2:  Varying for the audience

Now that you have tried several hooks and heard many more, we are going to target these to different audiences. Hooks should change and their content should change depending on what the interests and knowledge are of the audience.

You might be presenting to students, teachers, advisory board members, and possibly city officials or others outside of our school, organization, or neighborhood. How would your hook be different if it were a group of middle school students or the Board of Education?

If you know the types of presentations and the audiences you will be presenting to, have teams come up with three possible hooks that would work for each situation and present them back and get feedback. As a group decide what hooks would work best for your situations.

If you don’t yet know the types of presentations and the audiences, use the attached sheet with possible scenarios. Participants can get in teams of three. Each teams should pick a Audience card and a Purpose card.

Write down three hooks that you think would be great to use in our presentation at the beginning.

Have each person stand up and practice their hook.

As a group, decide which hooks were most effective for a presentation.  What hooks would work best with an adult audience?  With a youth audience?