The fastest human in the world once said that the key to winning races is getting off to a fast start. Legendary champion Usain Bolt claims that he wins races within the first five seconds of the start of the race.

You may not be able to win a quarter-hour with a fast start (great content has something to do with it, too), but there’s plenty of evidence you can lose a quarter-hour with a weak hook.

It’s the same in every other media. Great content often fails if attention isn’t captured quickly:

Music: Remember the “good old days” when songs had a 15-20 second intro? Now, lyrics start within a few seconds and often slam immediately into the hook.

Books: Authors seek to inspire curiosity by pulling the reader into the action in the first paragraph.

Videos: When’s the last time you sat through even 30 seconds of chit-chat at the beginning of a YouTube video without getting impatient?

Television: A new show starts with action to attract viewers to the storyline. Producers know the first few seconds of a change in programming is the high-risk zone for tune-out.

Podcasts: Studies show more and more listeners don’t make it through the first minute unless the hosts capture their attention quickly.

A Fast Start On The Radio

So it is with radio shows. Shows risk losing a substantial percentage of the audience every time programming changes. The first few seconds are critical.

  • When a host spends 30 seconds talking about what they did last night, listeners become impatient.
  • Starting that first break of the day as a “warm-up” is nothing but idle chatter to a listener.
  • Spending a minute getting to the emotional essence of a story wastes the listener’s time. And they won’t put up with it.

5 Ways To Get Off To A Fast Start

Here’s how personalities can increase the chances of holding attention with a strong hook:

Plan and Prepare: Nothing fixes a weak area like prep. Great hooks are the result of making it a priority, then committing time and energy to the project. I coach personalities to invest 80% of prep time to payoffs, hooks, and teases.

Target An Emotion: Listeners react to content that makes them feel something. Consider the headlines that impact your own behavior: A Slimmer You For The Holidays will always get more interest than How To Lose 10 Pounds in Six Weeks.

Ask For Help: Appeal to the emotion of greed by making listeners feel needed. They love to eavesdrop on problems and offer suggestions and solutions. Starting with, “I have a problem” is a great technique.

Suggest Friction: Add the potential of drama, suspense, or conflict in an opening line creates a “this is going to be good” feeling. It doesn’t have to be an over-the-top blowup. Just a little friction in the perspective is all it takes. A simple intro like, “Okay, it’s time for Laura to get back at her mom” sets up a story!

Pick a Side: Make a statement that divides the audience into two camps. One side will nod their head and think, “You’re just like me”. The other react with, “You got it all wrong”. Both are intrigued. One show launched a story about kids ruining their dinner at a nice restaurant by saying, “Every restaurant that isn’t fast-food should have a no-kids-under-5 section.”


For more information on how to craft killer hooks, check out my all-new seminar It’s All About The Hook. It’s loaded with details and examples that will inspire you. And you can download a copy of the It’s All About The Hook ebook here.

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