How do you present when nobody has to listen to you?

Emotionally engaging presentations are hard to ignore.

Open access version

In light of the terrible impact of the pandemic on our sectors, I've decided to make the full text of the book freely available online until the end of October 2021. Please help to share this opportunity with your colleagues.

About the book

The big idea

If you work as an informal educator in a visitor attraction or outreach organisation your fundamental challenge is engaging audiences who don't have to listen to you. Without being able to win and keep the attention of your audience, all of your other objectives are impossible to achieve. 

Hook Your Audience is a toolkit of performance techniques to emotionally engage child and family audiences in interactive, educational presentations. Its main purpose is to encourage you to reflect more deeply on exactly how you hook your learners using a variety of engagement techniques. Many of these hooks are borrowed from other professional performers, such as magicians, stand-ups, street performers and actors.

A book to be read, dog eared, highlighted, referenced everywhere, and browsed over and over again till the spine disintegrates.

A string of crystallised nuggets of gold advice in a field for which I thought it would be impossible to write an instruction manual.

Marilena Pace,
STEM content producer

Format

This comprehensive guide groups these techniques into seven tools. The book is written in short chunks so that it can be read tool-by-tool or scanned and dipped into according to your interests. The toolkit:

  • explains the principles behind the tools;
  • curates hundreds of engagement hooks for you to consider implementing;
  • illustrates many of these hooks with examples;
  • shares quotations to stimulate reflection;
  • summarises the key ideas at the end of each tool; and
  • includes a glossary of the performing terminology.

Paperback - 10" x 7"; 339 pages. Approximately 91,000 words.

This is the book for training educational presenters, anyone who has to stand in front of an audience and keep them engaged.

Super practical, tried and tested techniques for any topic. This is a book I could have bought several times over for training museum educators over the years.

Rachel Ayrton,

Learning & Interpretation Manager, King Richard III Visitor Centre

Contents

Contents:

Preface                                                        

How to use the toolkit

Hook their attention - the fundamental principles
0.1 Nobody has to listen to you
0.2 Everybody listens to emotional hooks
0.3 You are a performer
0.4 The audience are your directors
0.5 Key ideas about hooking their attention
                                       
Tool 1. Connect through your character  
1.1 Connect before you communicate
1.2 Be authentic
1.3 Show you are likeable and relatable
1.4 Build your trust bank
1.5 Blend authority with vulnerability
1.6 Key ideas about connecting through your character

Tool 2. Embrace the liveness          
2.1 Shhh… most presentation spontaneity is an illusion
2.2 Fixed content
2.3 Engineered content
2.4 Recalled content
2.5 Improvised content
2.6 Key ideas about embracing the liveness
             
Tool 3. Express your emotions
3.1 The curse of the zombie presenter
3.2 The inexperienced zombie
3.3 The formal zombie
3.4 The uninterested zombie
3.5 The jaded zombie
3.6 The distracted zombie
3.7 The burnt-out zombie
3.8 The over-enthusiastic zombie
3.9 Key ideas about expressing your emotions
                   
Tool 4. Interact through play                  
4.1 The power of interactive presentations
4.2 Playing for a living
4.3 How not to interact with your audience
4.4 Training the audience to interact
4.5 Audience interaction techniques
4.6 Key ideas about interacting through play

Tool 5. Exploit questions                                      
5.1 Asking the audience questions
5.2 Receiving their answers
5.3 Responding to their answers
5.4 Taking questions from the audience
5.5 Responding to their questions
5.6 Key ideas about exploiting questions

Tool 6. Make your volunteers heroes
6.1 The double-edged sword of volunteers
6.2 Selecting volunteers from willing audiences
6.3 Coaxing volunteers from reluctant audiences
6.4 Welcoming volunteers
6.5 Interacting with volunteers
6.6 Releasing volunteers
6.7 Key ideas about making your volunteers heroes

Tool 7. Relate through humour  
7.1 Scalpel please, nurse
7.2 Covert humour principles
7.3 Covert humour techniques
7.4 Overt humour principles
7.5 Overt humour techniques
7.6 Key ideas about relating through humour

How to improve
       
Notes
Glossary
Recommended books
About the author
Acknowledgements
Index

This is a wonderfully informative and accessible book, packed with useful information. Whether the reader is a newcomer to this world or a seasoned professional, there is lots to learn, all delivered in a warm and engaging style.

The book is full of easily applicable tools, as well as personal reflections and discoveries, often delivered as gently humorous and relatable anecdotes. Reading it feels like being part of a conversation - this is the voice of a generous expert, full of knowledge and experience, and delighted to share with us everything he’s learned about his subject.

Kate Beales, 

Director, writer, facilitator

Intended audiences

Of course, anyone is welcome to read this book, but it is primarily aimed at educational presenters who are working in visitor attractions or outreach organisations as a career. This includes a wide range of informal education sectors e.g. museums, science centres, planetariums, zoos, aquariums, historical and natural heritage centres, commercial attractions, outreach organisations, theatre-in-education practitioners and children's entertainers who perform educational shows. 

It should also be of interest to public engagement and outreach trainers working in universities, businesses and charities. They are responsible for training staff who engage the public through interactive presentations as part of their role.

Although my direct experience is in science communication, the techniques in the toolkit should be relevant to those who give interactive presentations to schools, community groups and families in most subjects. My subject bias, however, will be most apparent in the examples I've used to illustrate the hooks.

If you work in any of these sectors, please consider reviewing the book for your networks.

Epic.
Having done 4000+ science shows in 18 countries, I have sometimes allowed myself to appreciate my performing skills quite highly. Like, right at the top of the world. Now, having read Paul's book, it's back to Humble Land! Reading Hook Your Audience makes me happily the innocent and eager beginner that I was way back in the 90's.

Harri "Heko" Montonen,
Senior Inspirer, HEUREKA, the Finnish Science Centre

Author

Paul McCrory runs HOOK training ltd, a company devoted to helping educators engage their learners. His approach combines interactive performance techniques and psychology. He has spent over 20 years working as an informal science educator and trainer in the UK, Ireland and internationally. The most interesting thing about Paul is that he has a PhD in being interesting.


TL;DR

I've listed lots of easy-to-consume resources below to give you a taste of the book. Tuck in.

This book is delightfully genius, and more important than that, it's USEFUL! It's so rare to find such a positive book, about genuinely caring for your audiences and a presenter's impact.

I've honestly NEVER seen a book as amazing, amusing, and wonderfully written in my field, and it should be compulsory reading material on every science communication (or actually ANY training) course.

Whatever sector you're in - whether formal education, charity, corporate or public - and you need to present to audiences, you NEED this book in your life!

Dr Sai Pathmanathan, 
author and science education consultant

Ordering

Buy the paperback from your local Amazon store: e.g.

Buy the PDF ebook directly

Get a quotation for a bulk discount of books for staff development

The most comprehensive guide to on-stage engagement techniques for school age audiences (primary and secondary).

As I read, I literally watch myself performing and using the techniques. The way they are explained is so clear and concise that beginners can get stuck into self-improvement and more advanced practitioners can see the direction towards deeper development.

Paul McCrory has distilled thousands of hours of experience and professional interviews into what I consider to be the "Bible of Science Communication Performance Techniques".

Tom Pringle (aka Dr Bunhead)

Believe me, if you are a teacher, or EVER have to give any kind of presentation, Hook Your Audience is an absolute GOLDMINE of advice, evidence and top tips that will help you stand out.

Andrew Jeffrey,
CPD Provider, primary teacher, keynote speaker, and author

Paul McCrory is someone who has mastered the craft of science communication so I'm thrilled that he's sharing his expertise in his new book - Hook Your Audience

This is a toolkit of practical engagement techniques - you can dip in and out, or read this book from cover to cover (as I did) and take something new from it each time. Highly recommended!

Dr Aimee Stapleton,
Education & Public Engagement Manager at APC Microbiome Ireland

When I read about skills it often feels daunting and gives me the impression that I can never do it well. But after reading Hook your audience I feel encouraged to just go and try the tools, one by one, at my own pace, until I can do it.

Serah Hoeks,
science communicator

This brilliant book puts so many techniques (from the 'obvious-if-you-actually-stop-and-think-about-it' to the 'I-wish-I’d-thought-of-that-years-ago’) into words in clear and applicable ways. I recommend it to presenters of all varieties.

 It makes me want to get out there and perform, and inspire, and be better.

Naomi Foster,
STEM communicator

I found myself nodding along in agreement with every new paragraph I read, Paul has written something special here.

A must read book for anyone involved in presenting, it's packed with essential hints and tips for properly engaging your audience. Get yourself a copy now!

Sam Langford, 
Science Communicator & Engagement Consultant

The impact from, and joy of presenting a kick-arse show to an audience who are eating out of the palm of your hand is attainable! With practice and the advice, feedback and support of a circle of experienced peers, or at least some of those things, and this book. 🙂

Jay Ridgewell,
science communicator

Support these ideas

If the ideas in Hook Your Audience matter to you, please help to support them.

Share

Let your colleagues know about the book and resources using shareable images. #hookyouraudience


endorse

Provide a testimonial explaining how the book has helped you reflect on the ways you engage your learners.


improve

They say your first book will be the worst one you ever write. I'd appreciate any feedback which can help me improve the book. Including any tpyos 🙂


discuss

Explore an idea from the book that you feel strongly about in an online group. Include your own experience with that hook.


review

Write a review of the book on amazon or for any online or print publication for informal educators.


contribute

I’m compiling a collection of stories and examples of hooks from readers for HOOK wisdom, a future free resource to complement this book.


I honestly, can't recommend this book enough. Even if you have some background in performance, there are so many thoughtful insights and practical suggestions to help you get your message over to other people.

Siân Bevan,
Arts Project Manager

Hook Your Audience is a fantastic resource, whether you are just beginning your science communication journey or an experienced performer.

Making learning fun is one of the biggest accomplishments a presenter can achieve, and this book can help you do it, while being an illuminating and entertaining piece of education in and of itself. Can't wait for Volume 2!

Caoimhín De Bhailis,
Blackrock Castle Observatory

Dr Paul McCrory has succeeded in creating a unique combination of handbook and reflective self-help book, aimed at everyone who communicates in front of groups, in informal experiences and learning contexts.

I appreciate the conversational text, it feels like you are having a conversation with a colleague or a mentor.

Paul Henningsson,
interpretation & visitor research consultant at musedia
(full review - in Swedish)

There are not many books that are both a good cover-to-cover read as well as a practical reference book. This is both!

John Downey,
science engagement practitioner and occasional magician

It is becoming increasingly rare to read something in the area of science education and communication that hits the mark so effectively. Although Dr. McCrory's book starts with 'Nobody has to listen to you' this does not apply to him. So, please listen to him, read what he has to say and share as widely as possible.

From understanding the importance of authenticity to the characterizations of informal science educators to audience management, this book illuminates the essential information needed by any science communicator regardless of experience level. Dr. McCrory's experience in the field shines through with relatable anecdotes showing that to blend authority with vulnerability takes great skill and practice.

Dr Anthony Caldwell

If you're finding the open access book or resources helpful and you're in a position to support them, please feel free to buy me a metaphorical hot chocolate. No marshmallows, thanks.

HOOK training