Use these field-tested pitch techniques to hook your audience

 In Message creation, Quick Start

‘You have 20 seconds to increase my heart rate’.Isolated stopwatch. Clipping path included.

I read this statement in a document entitled Revealed: The 6 Laws of Successful Pitching by the Archaeus Organisation. (the document is not available on-line).

Why does this sentence mean?

Simply this.

When entrepreneurs are pitching their product or service to investors, they should keep in mind, that they have 20 seconds, to increase the heart rate of the investors. That is, they have 20 seconds, to excite the investors, to make them want to hear more.

If the investor’s heart beat, at the 20 second mark, has not increased – the entrepreneur, isn’t getting the money.

This mantra is a great one to keep in mind whenever you plan for, and deliver an opening for any type of presentation. That is, quickly – hook people to listen.

As this month’s blog focus is on Hooking audiences to listen – particularly for kick-off meetings – today’s post targets practical techniques and ideas to do that, as follows:

Practical ‘hooking’ techniques and ideas

Speak simple, declarative sentences – Example 1

(this type of opening is well suited to boardroom pitches/presentations)

That is, begin with simple declarative sentences, that logically follow, one after another, in the prosecution toward your key message. Avoid complex and compound sentences.

Here’s the opening of a pitch by a Medical Devices Business  Development Manager, to a group of radiologists, that won $10,000,000 worth of X-ray equipment.


‘Thank you for your time.

You’ve got an an important decision to make.

The key message to take away from this presentation is – Diagnostic confidence.


If you agree, that diagnostic confidence 

is a key in investing your medical devices dollar.

This presentation will clearly show you, how we meet that need.


The key message is, diagnostic confidence*.’


After that opening, you’d then move on, for example, to housekeeping, then fleshing out the key message, and handling questions, before closing with your key message.

One of the key messages of all my work with clients is ‘Simplicity Sells’  (as opposed to, ‘Complexity confuses’) A key component of ‘Simplicity Sells’ is to use an Open – Middle- Close speaking structure.

When you speak, keep the Open – Middle – Close structure in mind, to project certainty to an audience.

*(Diagnostic confidence means the radiologist doctors could be confident of their diagnosis, because of the clarity of the images that the vendors medical devices displayed).

Speak simple, declarative sentences – Example 2

General Bernard Montgomery’s World War Two speech to troops on taking charge of the eighth army in Africa, is a stellar example of simple, declarative speaking. Here are the first four sentences of the speech:

“I want first of all to introduce myself to you.

You do not know me.

I do not know you.

But we have got to work together.’

‘Negative’ openings (well suited for for boardroom presentations)


‘In exactly two years today, the patents on our most profitable product line, will expire forever. On that day, generic manufacturers will swamp out market with cheap copies, and – eat, us, alive.’ (Pharmaceutical senior executive to the board of directors).


At times it is worthwhile to ‘scare’ an audience to attention. That is, firstly clearly define the status quo. Then, engage the audience, to come up with/by suggesting solutions for the problem.

‘Consider this, what if’ – Example 1

(suited to a variety of presentations, meetings and interactions)

Use the starter phrasing, ‘Consider this – what if . . . ” , followed by tag questions to drive home the benefits.


‘Consider this. What if, in any presentation or meeting, you were perceived as very articulate, extremely competent and genuinely interested in the audience. Think about that for a moment? How would you feel about that?* What would that mean to you?*

Now I’m not suggesting that I’ll move you to those perceptions in this 45 minute presentation.

But if I can move you a piece along the way to those perceptions, I think you’ll agree our time will be valuable.

The key messages to take away from this presentation are

  1. Maximise the number of positive impressions you leave
  2. Project energy and certainty
  3. Simplicity sells.

Let me recap those messages . . . ‘


The above Hook followed by the Key messages is a potent way to get an audience to want to hear more. The process involves describing a positive picture of the future for the audience, and then qualifying it as I did with (‘Now I’m not suggesting’).

‘Consider this, what if’  – Example 2

If you happen to see someone at your office that you need to talk with, your language could be:


Hey James – got  a moment?’


‘Consider this, what if we could reduce our cost on x and y, by increasing our time with p and q?’


‘I’d like to send you an email about it. How’s that sound?’

Open with a provocative statement, and then clarify it.

(suited for large audience presentations or team meetings)


‘Motivational quotes are dangerous.

Because some people believe, just by mindlessly repeating motivational quotations, that things will improve in their lives. That they will attain the things they want.

The universe rewards action.

If you don’t pair the reciting of motivational quotes with action, you’re unlikely to achieve your goal. That’s why motivational quotes can be dangerous.

The key message for this presentation is “Take action. . . Take action on . . . ” (and so on)


A good way to come up with a provocative statement is to reflect on what beliefs are commonly held in your organisation. Consider when those beliefs don’t serve the company, well.

A Famous opening hook

‘Gentle Romans’ (boos from the crowd) Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him’. Mark Antony, in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

Bob Carr’s** 1:12 minute, three speaking lessons

Other hooks – Example 1

‘Here is a Composition – Lead Ins that Hook Your Audience document with examples of hooks. Though focused on written hooks and not specifically for business audiences, you can adapt the hooks for your openings.

Other hooks – Example 2


Ask the audience to recall an experience that had emotional meeting for them and is relevant to the time/situation at hand.

An Australian Broadcasting Corporation, television executive, used the following opening in asking her team to think back to a time when the team gave tremendous effort in bringing video footage of a cyclone.

‘Guys – think back to the effort we put in to get the footage of Cyclone Yasi. Think about that effort for a moment? We need that same degree of effort, for the challenge we face today . . ‘

Own the Conversation

1. File the link to this post in a relevant folder (eg. ‘Presentation planning’) so you can refer to it when you need to plan your next presentation.

2. Trial one of the techniques within the next seven days. For example, experiment with the ‘Consider this, what if’ hook’ in a chance encounter.

(this has been a relatively long post. Any feedback on the length/content of the post is welcome – for example, Was it too long? etc. For feedback please email michael@kellyspeech.com.au  – Thanks.

p.s. Check out this post with an opening by legendary ad man, David Ogilvy

**Carr was a former Foreign Minister of Australia, and New South Wales’ longest serving Premier.

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