Can you finish these phrases?

  • Don't count your chickens before they _________.
  • The postman always rings _________.
  • You can check out any time you like, but you can never ________,
  • If the glove doesn't fit, you must ___________.

From nursery rhymes to hit songs and movies to the most famous courtroom dramas, there is almost always a saying, hook or catchphrase that's central to the key message. Once that hook is in your head, you can't shake it out.

The best professional speakers use the same technique to turn their stories and talks into 'hit songs' -- and so should you!

Turning your message into a powerful catchphrase or hook makes you, and your story, more meaningful, more memorable, and more profitable.

Here are 8 techniques I have used for developing my hooks or headlines.

Once you clarify the point of your story, try developing hooks and headline by playing around with these techniques.

8 Techniques Hooks and Headlines - Shelagh

1. Borrowed Wisdom

This is when you use a well-known moral or proverb because it fits your message perfectly! The advantage of this technique is that people are already familiar with it as accepted wisdom, and that translates into accepted wisdom for you and your message.

2. Twisted Wisdom

Take an existing proverb and twist it in one way... maybe you change a word or reverse the syntax of it. This technique gives you the advantage of borrowed wisdom, with the added bonus of making it unique to you. You'll be amazed to see how a simple twist can make your listener perk up... and remember you!

3. A Simple Rhyme

Rhymes are a great way to embed your message. Human beings are neurologically predisposed to remember rhymes. Gosh, I still remember a TV commercial for toothpaste from when I was a kid... "You'll wonder where the yellow went, when you brush your teeth with...." If you can finish that phrase, you're as old as I am!

4. A Little Alliteration

Also known as a 'head rhyme,' alliteration is a literary technique that works like rhyming, except it emphasizes the hard consonants, usually, but not always, at the beginning of the word. You'll often find alliteration in tongue-twisters, like: "She sells seashells by the seashore!"

5. The Rule of 3

Our brains like things in 3’s because it gives the impression of a pattern. In fact, the rule of 3 doesn’t only apply to language – it applies to visual things too. That's why you see the rule of 3's in flags, slogans, and even stand-up comedy!

6. The Unwritten Rule of 1 & 2

Some people get so caught up in the Rule of 3 that they forget about 1 and 2... which can be just as powerful when used right.

7. Story Jeopardy

You already know the answer. If you didn't, you wouldn't be telling a story about it. The question is, 'what's the question?' That's what this technique is all about.

8. Triggers & Metaphors

This is the most challenging to explain, but it's quite possibly one of the most powerful techniques of all. It's when you relate your point to something totally different, like a banana, a water pistol, hand sanitizer, or whatever. The advantage of this technique is that it triggers the memory of your message every time the listener comes across the object in their everyday life. But be careful with this one. It has to fit comfortably into your story; it can't be forced.

Now is a great time posterized

Now is a great time to get great at storytelling to improve sales, leadership, influence, and the world... whether you're on stage or behind a screen!

As a professional copywriter, songwriter, and speaker, I've used all these techniques in print ads, tv commercials, songs... and yes, keynotes!

I have noticed that with a bit of practice, the trick in coming up with these hooks and headlines isn't so much the 'sit down and think'; it's noticing that a great hook or headline has just popped out of your mouth in conversation -- and you have the presence of mind to write it down.

One more thing about adding hooks and headlines... this process does more than make your story more impactful, memorable and effective; it forces you to clarify the point of your story.

And that's the point, isn't it?

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About the Author Michel Neray

My work in Core Messaging, Category Design and Storytelling for over 30 years has taught me that at the bottom of every meaningful value proposition is a story.

As the founder of momondays, I have listened to and watched countless stories being performed -- it has given me a fundamental grasp of what works, and what doesn’t. As a professional speaker, trainer and consultant, my passion is helping people and organizations lead better, sell more, and change the world.

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