To Engage Requires A Frame And Hooks

To fully engage with your audience requires; your language to be captivating, your delivery to be animated, and your content to include a frame and hooks.

Communication Frames

When communicating, the two most important lines are the opening and closing ( While the closing line is the call to action, it is the first line that does all the heavy lifting of setting the scene and summarising your point. This line frames the communication. Once communicated, the audience will analyse everything communicated through the frame of the opening statement. They will seek confirmation from what follows and will filter out (almost) all facts that do not support the opening. So, how you open the communication is critical to how well it will be received. This opening statement is called the frame.

To illustrate, on my first meeting with a new client I always ask “so would you please tell me your story?” By “story” I mean the person’s professional biography. One client when asked this question opened with; “Well, I’m Chinese…………”, after which point I paid no attention to anything else they had to say as my mind was focusing on the residency status of my new client. I had framed my interaction based on the fact that he was Chinese and therefore he might have a questionable residency / visa status rather than the fact that he was a talented analyst. Why did he open with the statement he was Chinese? Obviously, it was important to him and therefore it became important to me. It need not have been. If, he had opened with; “I’m an Analyst with exceptional modelling skills….”, the conversation would have been very different because I would have framed him as an Analyst with exceptional modelling skills and if he had later divulged that he was Chinese I would have used his nationality to support his exceptional modelling capabilities rather than regard it to be a detraction (and a distraction)! Your opening line, therefore, is critical as it will create the frame through which your audience will consider everything that is to follow.

Communication Hooks

Hooks, on the other hand, are factoids upon which your audience will bite to engage with you. In a presentation they will be the stories you tell to illustrate your point. In a dialogue they are the first and last statements you make at each interjection; the frame and the close. And often, they are the reasons conversations fall flat because either or both the opening and the closing are ineffective hooks.

Extending the earlier illustration; when answering the “tell me your story” request most people will employ either; chronological order, “well, I started as an Auditor….”, or reverse-chronological order, “well, presently I am a XYZ and before that I was a ABC…..and I started out as an Auditor”. The problem with the first approach is the frame, which is the first hook, which as mentioned above means the audience will perceive the person through the frame of their first role no matter how relevant it is to what the person does today and for most people their first role has little relevance to the person today. The problem with the latter is that it ends flat, with a role that, generally, will be irrelevant to the person with whom you are communicating – ie there is no hook. Now, while there might be hooks along the way, the most relevant and most potent hooks are the opening and closing statements.

My advice to clients in this situation (the introduction / biography) is to adopt a circular argument. Recognise that your opening statement will frame you and be a hook and that your closing statement too will be a hook. So both the opening and the closing statements are comments on your current role, as this is the most relevant role in your background and your strongest communication hooks. All that remains is to tell the story of your journey between your opening and closing, which I recommend is to list roles in chronological order interspersing a colourful comment occasionally to generate interest. Adopting this approach will encourage engagement with your audience.



In every communication there are two important lines; the opening statement, which frames what is to follow, and of itself is a hook; and the closing statement, which as the last comment heard by the audience too is a hook. To engage with your audience consider making both statements strong and relevant; make them frames and hooks that you want to convey.