Hooks, Structure and Voice in Engaging Presentations

A serious topic to analyze, isn’t it? Why on earth would we like to cover this? Miłosz’s not that old yet. Well, wonder no more! By watching Pash Pashkow’s performance, you can observe how to create an engaging presentation and convey complex and abstracts points that will get across to everybody. Read on to see what we can learn from this TEDx talk. Firstly, we recommend you to watch the presentation and then read the analysis below.

Hooks

Everyone says we measure the success of a presentation by how the audience liked it. How to build this liking, though? Simplest way to achieve this is to boost engagement by using hooks – key components like a joke, a provocative statement, a bit of surprising data etc. These are well known to grab the audience’s attention in an instant.

Pash seems to be a master of well-thought hooks that also happen to be part of a larger story. If the elements were not there, it would harm or alter the storyline. Hence, using hooks is not just a presentation trick – it’s a very natural component of a well-developed thought.

This hook here (which appears in the middle of the presentation) consists in listing numerous examples that support and develop the thesis that even though misnomers are common, they can have a negative effect. See this:

Point made, right? Well explained and very entertaining – sticking well in the memory of the audience, too.

Coming back to the hook used just at the beginning – stating that the presenter’s first midlife crisis was just at the age of 13. Funny as it is, Pash makes a point that at that time, with the announcement of Jim Morrison’s death, he figured out that me might have just lived half of his life already. Hence the idea of a first midlife crisis.

Bear in mind that the hook is intentionally built this way to strike as a surprise. What if the emphasis had been put differently like: “Jim’s death made me realize that I may not live till my 80s but die at 27. This would have meant that I was already halfway through with my life. And that’s when I got my first midlife crisis.”

The example above would no longer be witty information that serves as a hook. That’s what Pash teaches us – that the hook can be made from pretty much any information. It just depends on its formation and putting the emphasis in a right way.

 

King of examples and structure-forming

What Pash tries to convey is a bit abstract, hence complicated to explain. If you struggle with a similar obstacle, one of the most common methods to make your talk seamless is structuring your content with the following order:

  1. Explanation of background story.
  2. Aim that you want(ed) to achieve.
  3. Actions taken to fulfill your goal.
  4. Results or aftermath of those actions and a summary.

For instance:

  1. Our recruitment process lasts about 3 months.
  2. It’s because we aim for hiring best people to our team.
  3. So, we have come up with 10 diverse recruitment steps that verify whether a person has all the competences, fits the team, is capable of handling the given responsibilities and if they plan to stay in the company for longer.
  4. With such an uncommon attitude towards the recruitment process, instead of losing time and workforce, hence money – we earn more as more clients trust us, and the rate of work satisfaction soars. Having this experience with our recruitment strategy, we won’t change it, at any rate.

Clear, precise, easy to form, right? However, Pash goes further – he starts with an example, and adds more of them whenever his message may not get across.

The whole speech begins with a hook that was mentioned above, which also happens to be his personal experience – an example of a midlife crisis. Through that, he states his thesis. The whole performance revolves around examples. I let myself write down a plan of his presentation. Take a look:

Thesis: Midlife crisis needs a rebrand.

  1. Examples from his life to make a point that age does not define when a midlife crisis will strike.
  2. Forms a thesis and adds a yoga instructor example.
  3. Defining a midlife crisis from a branding perspective.
  4. Showing a solution to the branding problem which was compared to the identity crisis. Example of Target.
  5. Shows that because of branding disconnect, it’s harder to solve identity crisis.
  6. Shows disparity of the original statement and contemporary definition of midlife crisis. Gives numerous examples of similar cases and possible stigma examples that have also a wrong influence on people’s reaction.
  7. Giving the example of the apes study that shows that dips are natural not only to us – human beings.
  8. Explaining the importance of dips (crises).
  9. Highlighting the branding solution that can be implemented to a midlife crisis.
  10. Summary with killer whale and funny bone examples.

To each step in developing his thought, he adds examples that show what he means. He either starts with them to generalize the thesis after, or uses it as a reinforcer of what he said. This way of organizing the presentation can be only a benefit, as audience loves examples, especially the ones that are hooks at the same time. It brings not only more engagement into the performance but also more understanding of a complex issue.

So, the next time, try to operate on examples, mostly to make sure your audience gets the idea. Definitions and abstract explanations surely make it easier for us to generalize and categorize an idea, but examples are those which make us understand the interlocutor.

Intonation

Would any of those above mentioned areas matter if Pash intonation was flat and dull? Content and the structure is extremely important, hooks can bring great engagement, too. However, one of the reasons we want to listen to somebody for longer is intonation.

It needs to show emotions and suggest to the audience what the real intention of the speaker is. What if a presenter at your business meeting said “We have finished all the work before the deadline!” with a flat, unconfident, silent manner? Would this message be trustworthy? Would it be even noticed in all the dull-sounding content? Would the team of this guy feel proud of their work or would they think that it’s being ignored by their boss?

When Pash makes a point, he takes great care of the pitches and emotions that create the intonation. With his voice, he lures you into the story and examples. And you exactly know when he makes a joke and when he’s troubled or saddened by a situation. Like when he talked about his father’s death:

 

See how powerful this one is?

What about using intonation to summarize and to make the very last point? When you watch the video below, you will see that Pash highlights the importance of his thought by slowing down a bit, and accentuating each syllable. When he makes a joke, he adds a bit of a higher pitch. Listen to the ending, which illustrates how he employs his voice to make his point:

 

Want to improve your intonation? Try to record yourself and analyze what you say, not minding the content and the words. Speak gibberish, but try to convey the thought through the intonation and emotions only. That’s a great exercise to realize the unfulfilled potential of your voice.

 

Conclusion

Pash Pashkow’s presentation is much more entertaining than most of the TED talks that flood the internet. He’s natural, entertaining and creative when merging the branding and identity problems. The mentioned areas that we can learn from this presentation is just the tip of the iceberg. However, the hooks, the content developed through examples and the intonation that grabs attention are the ones which will help you boost your performance in no time. So, remember – appreciate the value of examples, create your content so that the hooks seem natural and highlight your point with appropriate intonation.

This article is a part of larger series where we find the best presentation examples and show how you can nicely improve your performance. See any material worth to cover or have any questions?

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