As an introvert, making small talk is more nerve-wracking than presenting a topic I’m passionate about on stage in front of 100 people.


On stage I can hook people (in a very controlled way) into wanting to learn more. In person, I find myself answering their questions a bit too literally and in my frantic need to get the conversation ball back in their court, and give them the opportunity to talk about themselves, I rarely hook people into wanting to know more about me.

Opportunity lost.

Your association’s content doesn’t have the length of a presentation to capture your audience. You have about 12 words or 15 seconds (for video). Here’s how to maximize them:

Perfecting the Hook

Begin with a Story

No, you can’t tell your association’s full story in 12 words, but you can give enough of it to make your audience want to read (or watch) more.

Use a Quote

Besides being incredibly shareable, content that begins with a quote from a well-known person piggybacks off of the goodwill people have for that person. If I quote Justin Timberlake, and my target audience is comprised of millennials, they’ll generally continue reading to get to the tie-in.

Incorporate your Weakness

People love confessions. If you have something to admit, do so quickly. It helps people identify with you, and those who share your weakness are likely to continue reading because they want to know how you overcame or dealt with it. (I used this technique in today’s post).

You’re Doing it Wrong

Most of us are paranoid that we’re doing it wrong, especially if we are doing something new to us that’s taking us out of our comfort zone – like social media. Starting your content with topics that point out flaws, such as “The 1 Thing Holding you Back,” immediately piques our interest. It is essential we read it to make sure we’re not guilty.

Use Short Sentences (and white space)

Don’t burden busy people.

Keep it brief.

Employ Unique Imagery

A picture is worth a thousand words so choose your image wisely. It will draw your audience in or make them feel like your information is dated and generic (a good reason not to use stock images from the ‘90s).

No Shell Games

Do not bait people in the lead sentence only to switch content on them further down. Your first few words should tie into your content.

Tease them with Answers

Your members, or potential members, are looking to your association for help or information. Your first 12 words should convey what you plan on answering, but stop just shy of solving their problem. Stating what to expect, and telling them where to get it, will ensure they continue reading.

Edit your Opener

After you write your content, refer back to your opener. Do they match? Does your opener reflect what you are saying within? Is it tight? Now cut the opening paragraph in half. Does that work better?

More often than not, less is more.

Hooks should never replace quality content. They are a tool to help your audience discover your content and stay with it.

The trick to perfecting the hook is doing it quickly, succinctly, and leaving room for more in the first 12 words. That’s a tall order for very little space but as Google places more importance on creating quality content, it’s becoming increasingly necessary.

Don’t be like me in small talk situations rushing through. Take the time to craft the content opener. It’s the only way you’ll get readers to the end.