COM 510 Business Communications Week 7 Discussion 1

“Hooking Your Audience” Please respond to the following:Part 1: In preparation for Assignment 2, which in due in Week 9, share your opening. What story or data point are you using to hook and connect with the audience?

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Speak with Confidence, Chapter 4: (ONLY) Openings that Entice, Summaries that Sizzle, and The
Finishing Touches
Speak with Confidence, Chapter 7: Persuasion – Everybody’s in Sales
Speak with Confidence, Chapter 8: Giving a Good Story a Fighting Chance
Speak with Confidence, Chapter 9: Visuals that Support, Not Sabotage
Guide to Managerial Communication, Chapter VI: Speaking: Visual Aids
Supplemental Reading and Video
P. 8 Presentation openers that grab your audience from the get-go
R. Nancy Duarte – How to Tell a Story
The most influential communications engage our emotions. We might be
tempted to think of the business world as a realm of dry logic and cold,
calculating decision-making, but this ignores the human element. People
respond best to messages that engage their emotions, as well as their rational
Research shows that the line between rational thought, and emotions or
instinct, isn’t as clear-cut as we might believe. There is a lot of overlap. Two
messages can contain the same information, but entirely different emotional
content. For example, a fun, satirical commercial that pokes fun at a company
while relaying its message is often more effective than a dry recitation of
information. Emotion is a powerful tool for engaging your audience. You
must learn how to use it to make an impact.
Proper use of emotion in your presentations can help engage your audience to
get their cooperation, to motivate them as a team, and/or to gain the buy-in
of different departments. People work best when they’re inspired and
passionate about what they do. Over and over again, thought-leaders who
engaged their audiences’ emotions achieved results beyond those who did
not. Business personalities, like Jack Welch and Steve Jobs, are examples of
leaders who not only persuade with facts and logic; they engage with passion
to achieve their goals.
The best way to engage the emotions of your audience is to tell a story.
Powerful storytelling creates an emotional connection that helps you develop
a rapport with your audience. If you can get your audience “on board”
emotionally, they’ll be more inclined to go wherever you lead them.
“I think many people assume, wrongly, that a company exists to make
money,” said Dave Packard to HP’s managers in 1960. “While this is an
important result of a company’s existence, we have to go deeper and find the
real reasons for our being. As we investigate this, we inevitably come to the
conclusion that a group of people get together and exist as an institution that
we call a company, so they are able to accomplish something collectively,
which they could not accomplish something separately. They are able to do
something worthwhile — they make a contribution to society (a phrase which
sounds trite but is fundamental). In the last few years more and more
business people have begun to recognize this, have stated it and finally
realized this is their true objective. You can look around and still see people
who are interested in money and nothing else, but the underlying drives come
largely from a desire to do something else — to make a product — to give a
service — generally to do something which is of value.”
This speech is chronicled in David Packard’s book, The HP Way: How Bill
Hewlett and I Built Our Company. It’s a brilliant opening, because it sets the
tone for the book while also challenging the audience’s assumptions. Most
people do assume a company exists to make money, but by engaging the
audience and explaining that there’s a deeper, more meaningful reason, the
speaker (and author, David Packard, in the retelling) hooks the audience, and
builds rapport by appealing to a shared humanity. Who doesn’t want life to be
about more than simply making money? Importantly, this story also implies a
narrative that the audience already knows; HP became tremendously
successful. By making the audience curious to know the story behind that
result, the audience and the narrator (in this case, David Packard) are
instantly connected.
You can learn to use storytelling in your own presentations to similar effect.
Storytelling is one of humanity’s oldest techniques for passing on
information. We understand information better if we can relate to it. A good
narrative, a good story, is memorable because it engages specific parts of our
brains. What would you remember better: A vivid story your greatgrandfather told about World War II, or dry facts and statistics from an
Internet encyclopedia?
A good story pulls us in and lets us forget the real world. Creating a
compelling story engages your audience in a way that nothing else does. So,
how do you do it? It starts with detailed imagery to establish the setting in a
way that people will find relatable. “How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our
Company” is a mild but effective cliffhanger. Packard insinuates in his
opening that he is about to explain how to be successful in business,
something that everyone in his audience would want to know.
Another famous business success story, The Pursuit of Happyness, tells the
life story of Chris Gardner, who overcame poverty and family problems to
achieve great business success. The movie version of the book, starring Will
Smith as Gardner, opens with a scene between Smith and Gardner’s young
son. As the two make their way through a frantic, stressful, and typical day for
Chris Gardner, the viewer is instantly drawn into the challenges Gardner
faces as both a parent, and as a man struggling for financial solvency. These
are challenges to which most of us can immediately relate. Telling a story
through shared challenges, through vivid imagery, through metaphor and
comparison, is a great way to make your audience curious for more. Stories
that model relatable behavior and invoke cultural touchstones can help make
your opening narrative more powerful.
It isn’t enough to create a powerful hook or a strong narrative when you map
out your presentation. You must have substance to back up your claims.
Supporting data, including statistics, is a very compelling way to build on the
rapport you have established with your audience. Using supporting facts,
data, and statistics helps build credibility with your audience, while driving
them toward the conclusion you want them to make, or the action you want
them to take.
When using statistics, remember that they are more powerful in context. It’s
one thing to say, for example, “Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C.”
That’s fine, but it’s not particularly compelling. Here is that same fact in
context: “According to, one strawberry has more vitamin C than
an orange.” That is a more powerful statement that puts your assertion in
context while also intriguing the audience (because it likely runs counter to
their assumptions).
Remember, too, that statistics do not have to be boring. Follow up every
statistic with your interpretation. Saying that the Titanic was 883 feet long is
fine, but provide context with a comment like, “That’s the equivalent of three
football fields.” (In fact, the website lets you convert any
number of feet into equivalent football fields.) You can tell an audience that
the Titanic was 104 feet tall, but it’s not memorable unless you follow that fact
with, “That’s as tall as a 17-story building from keel to bridge.” Use context
that your audience will recognize, and to which they can relate.
Use statistics as an engaging part of your storytelling. You are presenting to
people who will make their decisions based largely on how you make them
feel, rather than how well you support your case.
For example, you could say, “Thirty-three percent of people, according to a
survey, know their partner’s social media passwords.” This isn’t terribly
compelling. You could instead present it like this: “Look to your left. Now
look to your right. One of you knows your partner’s social media passwords…
and your partner doesn’t know that you know.” This method is particularly
powerful because it involves the audience directly in the narrative you are
creating, making the stakes apparent and personal in a way that unexplained
statistics cannot.
Remember that just as every verbal exchange is a presentation, every
presentation is an opportunity to tell a story. Never miss an opportunity to
craft a compelling narrative. You don’t have to tell long, drawn-out stories
when making a point. You can be compelling, and engage the audience in a
narrative, with a single sentence. This is something that takes time and
practice to develop, but that effort will be well worth it — and it will position
you for success as a business leader.
How do you want others to perceive you? What do you say when you
introduce yourself? Telling your story is a powerful way to create a personal
brand. As you know, storytelling is an engaging way to emotionally connect
with others.
Keep in mind that any stories you tell should already be rehearsed. You can’t
afford to search for what you want to say, or to get halfway through the story
and realize you’re not going to reach an appropriate conclusion. Stories of
personal success and achievement, especially those that relate to the goals of
whatever you are now trying to accomplish, are best. They are compelling
because they suggest that: “We’re trying to succeed at this goal. Here’s an
example of how I succeeded in pursuit of a similar goal. Perhaps we can draw
from that success to achieve our shared purpose.” The more easily you tell the
story, the more familiar it is, and the more compelling it will be. The reverse
is true, too: If you tell a story badly, it’s going to hurt your credibility with the
audience. They’ll disengage if you fumble the narrative.
It’s important that you take time to really think through your journey to find
your stories.
What moments have defined you as a professional?
What obstacles have you overcome?
Are you on a mission? Why?
Authenticity is key. Your stories must truly be your stories.
Be brief
Tap into emotion
Discuss a challenge you overcame
End on a high note
Steve Jobs famously told a trio of great stories in his commencement speech
at Stanford in 2005. He spoke about his adoption, about losing his job at
Apple, and about confronting his own sickness and mortality. Every one of us
can relate to these stories on some level. They’re genuine, they’re meaningful,
and they’re universal. Each story relates a vivid lesson, capturing the
audience’s attention before inspiring them. Each story is brief, emotionally
rich, and discusses a challenge that Jobs overcame, before ending on a high
note. That is what you want your stories to do.

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