When we pitch, we automatically think that the listener will listen interestedly. But that is far from the obvious. That’s why you need to capture the attention of the listener, as the very first thing when you pitch. You do this with a captivating introduction, which in pitch jargon is called a hook. In this article, I will give you insights and tips on how to capture your audience’s attention in 30 seconds.

Why the hook is so important

As human beings, we are naturally adapted to sort through the input we receive through our senses. We do this unconsciously all day long. That means that we – and our listener in a pitch situation – automatically stops listening if the pitch is boring, complicated or uninteresting. Then the listener has more important things to take care of or thoughts such as “what’s for dinner” or “did I remember to send that email” pops up in her head. To capture the listener’s attention and avoid your pitch to be labeled uninteresting then you need your hook – short, easy to understand and captivating.

The short and understandable hook

A pitch needs to be short, but how short should it be? The simple answer is “as short as possible”, and a more precise guideline would be that the hook should be 1-2 sentences long. What matters is that it is capable of capturing the listener’s complete attention. The shorter a hook that is capable of this, the better, because then you have more time to present your message and convince your audience. So no long-drawn explanations. Their place is at later meetings or in text. Not in your pitch.

It’s also important that the hook is easily understandable and at eye level with you listener. That means that the language you use in your hook needs to be as concrete and comprehensible as possible. Don’t use any hard or implied terms or long, complicated sentences. Unless you know exactly who you are pitching to, and because of that can adjust the pitch and your hook to that person, then you have to assume that the listener knows nothing. That’s why you need to make the pitch easy to understand. When you remember that your pitch needs to be short and understandable, then you are ready to unveil what your hook specifically can consist of; how it becomes captivating and attracts your listener’s attention.

Also recommended for you the idea is the foundation of your pitch.

The captivating hook

Your hook can appear captivating in numerous ways. There is no one version that works. Your hook needs to be exciting, thoughtful, provoking, surprising, intriguing, personal, dramatic, confrontational or yes – anything that effectively catches your listener’s attention. One, little condition though; it needs to also stay relevant to the rest of your pitch. Below, we have created some different examples on how a hook can sound if it were for our own pitch-tool Pitcherific:

The exciting: “We have discovered a new way to make entrepreneurs great at pitching and convincing their customers, which we will present to you today.”

The thoughtful: “Did you know, that 9 out of 10 entrepreneurs are not trained in pitching? But that it is crucial for their success?”

The provoking: “If you can’t pitch your idea in a convincing way then you’ll never be successful. We know, and have developed a solution that can help you pitch convincingly.”

The surprising: “The formula for the great pitch is much simpler than most of us believe… today, we reveal a small part of it.”

The personal: “I have a friend named Thomas who has this awesome idea. It can make a big difference to a lot of people if he is capable of convincing others to help him out. We can help Thomas and other entrepreneurs with pitching their ideas convincingly.”

The dramatic: “How good you are at pitching can mean the difference between life or death for your company. At Pitcherific, we know that.”

The confrontrational: Have you experienced how hard it can be to craft a sharp and convincing pitch? Would you be interested in becoming better at presenting and get tools for creating a strong pitch? Then listen closely for the next minute.”

This was a hook in different variations. Did you find a pattern in how the captivating hook is made? A characteristic of every good hook is that it excites the listener’s attention, so she feels motivated to hear more and thus listens up. At the same time, it is typical for the great hook that you include the problem and/or the solution from your concept in a fast, appealing way.

When you’ve caught the attention of the listener with your hook, you then need to maintain and expand it by telling further about the problem or the need, and later about your solution. You can see an example of a complete elevator pitch here: Got your elevator pitch straight?.

Tips for a great hook

When you’re working on your hook there are a few reminders that can help you along:

  • Create as short a hook, as possible. 1-2 sentences are sufficient.
  • Ask yourself what is especially surprising or thoughtful about your concept – or how you can present the problem or solution in a short, captivating form.
  • Do create different versions of how your hook could sound for your pitch.
  • Remember that your hook needs to lead up to the rest of your pitch and thus needs to fit your core message.
  • Practice your hook – only the reaction of your target audience can truly tell you how it works out in the wild!

Good luck with crafting your hook.

And lastly, if you’re a bit like me, you’ll experience how it can be quite educational and entertaining to think up a short, captivating introduction to your pitch!

Lauge Vagner Rasmussen

Lauge Vagner Rasmussen

Lauge Vagner Rasmussen is the co-founder of Pitcherific and associate professor at the University of Aarhus, where he teaches entrepreneurship and pitching. Email him at lauge@pitcherific.com

comments powered by Disqus