How do you present when nobody has to listen to you?
Emotionally engaging presentations are hard to ignore.
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.
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.
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
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
About the author
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, acquariums, 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.
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
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.
I've listed lots of easy-to-consume resources below to give you a taste of the book. Tuck in.
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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)
Jump straight in ...
The book is written so that you can scan it and dip in and out depending on your interests. For example, clicking on any of these questions will open a tab at the relevant part of the open access book to give you a flavour of the toolkit:
How do you play the best version of yourself onstage?
Should you have a script?
How do you handle presentation mistakes?
How do you keep it fresh when delivering the same content repeatedly?
How do you stop the adults talking in your presentations?
How do you coax volunteers from a teenage audience who seem glued to their seats?
Support these ideas
If the ideas in Hook Your Audience matter to you, please help to support them.
Let your colleagues know about the book and resources using shareable images. #hookyouraudience
Provide a testimonial explaining how the book has helped you reflect on the ways you engage your learners.
Explore an idea from the book that you feel strongly about in an online group. Include your own experience with that hook.
Write a review of the book on amazon or for any online or print publication for informal educators.
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.