Six ways to attract and keep your client’s attention.


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First of all…you don’t need to shout.

I recently read an article on jury behavior research. It indicated 80% of jurors make up their minds regarding how they will vote by the end of counsels opening statements.

I repeat, by the end of opening statements.

That tells me somebody definitely grabbed their attention, and then delivered some pretty good reasons as to why they should believe them.

And they did it fast. Very fast.

Rightly or wrongly, that’s just how human nature works. Especially the part about making first impressions, attracting someone’s attention and determining whether they’re believable. Or not.

How someone attracts and keeps our attention is fed by other things like strong handshakes versus wimpy handshakes. How a person speaks. Appearances. Body language. You know, the whole “limbic system” emotional and learning connectivity thing. It’s some combination of those things that determines how we come across. How we are perceived. How we connect. The majority of times most of us decide if we “like” and to some extent, trust someone quickly. Very quickly. Here’s an example of just how fast from a Forbes article by Roger Dooley.

Those emotional touch points also act as a driver with a “halo effect” (great curated examples from Mee Young Jeong) as to whether we find people (and companies), and what they say as being believable, trustworthy and credible. Whether or not we feel like we can connect with and relate to them. But before any of those things can happen…they have to attract and then keep our attention.

All those things also apply in the business world as well. Especially the attention getting part.
For instance, when you give a presentation you can establish rapport quickly as noted in this Inc. article by Geoffrey James. Or not. You can get your main idea across to the audience quickly. Or not. And you can come across as believable, trustworthy and credible. Or not. All of which happens, like with jurors, in a very short amount of time.

The same is true for most types of communication including emails, ads, PR, proposals and social media. So, you need to make certain you have your collective attention-grabbing credibility act together.

I’ve found one way someone can usually attract and keep my attention, no matter what the medium, is with a “hook” of some kind.

What kind of hook?

A word, quote, story (as noted by Milly Youngs), sound bite, joke, music, cartoon or visual that instantly grabs my attention and emotionally pulls me in. It’s something to which I can relate and relate quickly. Again, in limbic terms, it’s about feelings and associated behavior. Advertisers have been using hooks for years.

A good hook is something that conveys the full context of the subject matter quickly. It compresses all the pivotal points into a memory anchor. So that, even if for some reason, you didn’t hear the rest of the story, watch the whole presentation or read through the entirety of the proposal, you’d know what it was about. You’d get it from the opening remarks, the visuals used, the headlines in a story, the quotes, or the callouts and subheadings in the proposal. Hooks also connect you to whoever delivered the message no matter what the delivery vehicle.

Let me give you a few examples of how I’ve used hooks to get the attention of an audience which also helped me to establish connectivity and credibility.

Word pictures: “Ice Bucket Challenge.”

I was recently invited to be a guest lecturer for a university graduate program. The students were going to be working with a non-profit organization.

To set the stage for the lecture, I opened with just three words, “Ice Bucket Challenge.” Then I was silent for a short amount of time. I let those words create an image which brought to mind a huge viral event (like the one pictured above) that generated enormous amounts of awareness on multiple levels and large contributions for ALS (amyotropic lateral sclerosis). It helped me to set the stage for a discussion about ways non-profits can generate awareness.

Memorable quotes:

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

— Stephen Covey

I used the above quote by Stephen Covey in a proposal to a communications company for a client relationship-building program. It was placed immediately after the cover page and before the Executive Summary. Centered on the page and surrounded by white space it stood alone. Bringing an emphasis to the main objective of the proposal and the foundation upon which key elements of the program being proposed were built. That being trust.

A combination of callouts, subheadings and visuals were also used where appropriate, to summarize and reinforce main points in specific sections of the proposal.

Storytelling: Reinforcing a point with humor.

For presentations and articles pertaining to the power of words, I frequently recount a story, regarding a former colleague who had made a mistake on a client’s report. I explain how she corrected it and apologized to the client hoping it did not cause them any “incontinence.”

It is a humorous story that works as a good ice breaker and also reinforces the value of re-reading emails and all communications rather than relying solely on spell check and grammar check.

For more about the power of story, check out Mike Bosworth’s website.

Visual imagery: Harley and me.

Whenever I speak, or write about customer loyalty, I frequently use Harley-Davidson as a case study and describe how devoted, or more accurately, how fanatical Harley owners are. (This, I know from experience.) I can do an entire presentation on loyalty with two slides.

Here’s my first slide.


I’ll start by asking the audience if they recognize the image and the brand logo. Pretty hard not to.
Then, I’ll go on to talk about the fierce loyalty of Harley owners. How to own a Harley usually means buying Harley parts, accessories, clothes and to some extent, buying into the culture. How it goes way beyond customer advocacy.

Then, to illustrate exactly how loyal some Harley owners are…

I’ll show the second slide.


In case you haven’t figured it out, the first slide was cropped from the second slide. And as the full scale of the Harley-Davidson tattoo is revealed in the second slide, the audience can visually grasp (and in some cases, I’m sure…gasp at) the extent to which some Harley owners go to show their loyalty, their devotion, and fanatical spirit that embodies “Harleyness.”

At that point, I’ll ask the audience if any of their customers would voluntarily brand themselves with their company’s logo to demonstrate loyalty. We’ll then talk about ways to improve customer loyalty, retention rates, referral programs, advocacy, communications and other customer relationship-building topics.

“One eye sees, the other feels.” – Artist Paul Klee

Using the Harley-Davison logo and showing how it had been branded onto someone’s body, works as a visual and emotional hook to capture the audience’s attention. A pretty powerful hook that acts as a memory anchor to link the discussion points about customer loyalty with the person (yours truly) delivering those points. Combined, both work to reinforce believability, memorability and credibility.

People remember because they have been visually and emotionally branded. You can do the same thing in any form of communication.

So, if you want to quickly attract attention and make a memorable impression keep these things in mind. Whether it’s for a meeting, a presentation or a proposal.

1. Prepare. Do your research. Understand your audience’s needs, their competitive landscape, the challenges and issues they face and what motivates them.

2. Put yourself in their shoes. Once you have a good understanding of your client’s/prospect’s situation and needs, think of how you would feel if you had to face the same issues and challenges. What tools you would use to address those issues.

3. Use your imagination. Come up with a hook, whether it’s a quote, a visual, a sound bite, a news headline, a story, anything that will work to quickly attract their attention and encapsulate the situation faced by your audience. Something to which they can relate. So they know you understand, feel their pain and identify with them.

4. Set the hook. We humans have short attention spans (transient attention spans of 8 seconds, and selective sustained attention spans of 5 minutes). So, once you have the right hook, build on it and refresh it with pertinent details you gathered from your research. When relevant, use case studies, testimonials and personal experiences to reinforce the points you want to make in your meeting, presentation or proposal. They will act as “mini” hooks to sustain attention.

5. Enhance your credibility.
People want to know how you can help solve their problems. Make sure you give them quantified benefits to reinforce the value you and your company can provide. When you combine those things, the more emotional connectivity your hooks will have and the more memorable the points you make become, all of which will work to enhance your credibility.

6. Be memorable (in a good way). Use the right hooks to support the right messages. Unless you write headlines for the tabloids at the grocery store checkout line, don’t just create a hook to attract attention in a superficial way. It’ll backfire and damage your credibility.

The more you use some combination of hooks and memory anchors to attract and keep your clients’ and prospects’ attention in your meetings, presentations, proposals and communications, the more credible, memorable and successful you’ll be.

How about you? Do you have any favorite “hooks” you have used or seen?


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