The first and last words that you say when addressing an audience should be some of the most memorable: they serve to grab your audience’s attention and reinforce key points, respectfully. There are many strategies you can use to “hook” your audience, including telling a personal story, asking a question, or sharing a surprising fact. As you develop your conclusion, think about what you want the key takeaway or call to action to be. This is what the audience will leave your talk remembering. This page will guide you through strategies for writing your hook and your closing.
Pro Tip #1: Keep in mind that your hook will differ depending on your audience and what their needs and interests are.
Pro Tip #2: As you draft the conclusion of your talk, try to incorporate elements of your hook. This will help make your presentation cohesive and impactful.
Pro Tip #3: Are there ways to include audience participation in your talk? Consider doing a poll or informal survey or asking a rhetorical question. Encouraging audience participation from the start can help them stay invested in your talk.
- Talk Nerdy to Me, by Melissa Marshall
- 10 Ways Great Speakers Capture People’s Attention, by Sims Wyeth
- 6 Ways to Connect with Your Audience During a Presentation, by Lisa Rabasca Roepe
- The Most Powerful Way to End a Presentation, by Eric Holtzclaw
Watch some of the short research talks linked below and listen to some of the ways the speakers choose to open and close their talks. What were some of the techniques they used? Which techniques did you find most effective and why? Were there any that were not as effective and what could the speaker have done differently? What strategies could you incorporate into your talk?
- Download our handout to help you think about hooks and conclusions. Jot down three hooks that you could use when talking about your work. Try to write hooks that will appeal to different audiences. Then, practice your hooks with friends and family to get feedback.
- Draft three conclusions to accompany your hooks. Try to write at least one that incorporates elements you used in one of your hooks.
- Sign up for the Graduate College’s Research Live! competition, which challenges you to give a compelling talk about your work in three minutes or less for a public audience.
- Storytelling is a powerful technique that can help grip your audience’s attention. As an exercise, think of a few stories that help illustrate what you do. This could how you came upon your research topic, a situation when something didn’t work out the way you thought it would, etc. Outline your story with either words or drawings (check out this infographic for some ideas). Then, think about ways you might incorporate the story of your research into your talk.