Let’s just pause a second to appreciate that truly Presidential Presentation…

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The principles that Manley preaches are ESSENTIAL to capturing and holding attention. Be it short ads, long copy, presentations, or public speaking… the greatest of the great employ the Hook, Book, Look, and Took method.

We’re going to expand on crafting your Hook, because it is THAT important. The point of the Hook is to get their attention so you can lead them where you want them to go (like, a call to action.)

Manley says that 50-60% of his time is spent crafting the perfect hook, honing it to a fine point, and polishing it. (Like a spear. To impale you. Because when someone’s got you on the business end of a spear, you listen.)

The quickest way to be more interesting is to surprise. The quickest way to surprise is to make them laugh. And since Manley *wisely* states that you NEED humor in your presentation (thank you Manley!) we’re gonna talk about that too.

Here are three ways to impale surprise your audience with a strong hook.

1. Draw a line in the sand.

State a strong opinion, so people have no doubt as to what side of the line you stand on.

Like Manley’s: “Every restaurant basically serves the same thing: beef, chicken, or fish. The only thing that separates McDonalds from Ruth’s Chris is the preparation and the presentation.”

This premise is strong because it leaves no doubt as to what Manley’s opinion is and which side of the line-in-the-sand he stands on.

If you start with a weak opinion or premise, you’re dead in the water. A weak premise is a subject without an angle or your own point of view. You need a strong premise on which to expand and build the rest of your presentation. It’s your foundation.

So how do we make a strong premise, a line-in-the-sand statement?

A line in the sand has these three ingredients:

Subject + Premise + Angle

Subject and premise are different. A subject is the thing being discussed; the topic.

A premise is the subject + the 5Ws (who, what, when, where, why. And How.) You can of course combine more multiple Ws and throw in a How.

Subject = Topic

Premise = Subject + 5Ws / How

Line-In-The-Sand = Premise + Angle

The angle is your specific opinion or point of view (POV), which gives the premise its strength and makes it a line-in-the-sand (or, LITS.)

If Manley were just to say that all restaurants basically serve the same thing, beef chicken or fish, and left it at that, then he’d have a weak premise with no punch. (Yes, all restaurants serve food. Thanks for that hot take Manley. What’s your point?) But because he gives it an angle; “The only thing that separates McDonalds from Ruth’s Chris is the preparation and the presentation,” we now have an insightful way of looking at restaurants.

LITS = Restaurants (Subject) + Serve the same thing (5Ws/H) + Only difference between McDonalds and Ruth’s Chris is prep and presentation (Angle)

Anyone can do this. It just takes practice. Manley’s a genius at strong premises because he does it every week.

2. Make a claim that cannot possibly be true.

It wasn’t the truth when I began the sentence, but it became the truth before I finished it.

– Roy Williams

We’re not talking about lying. The claim doesn’t have to be even close to realistic. In fact, the more exaggerated and outlandish the claim, the more permission it gives you and the audience to go along with the joke.

How can you implement this in a presentation?

Two simple ways are using exaggerated statistics and made-up Webster definitions. These are fun ways to encourage the audience to go along with the joke.

“Webster defines ‘tomorrow’ as a mystical land where 99% of all your productivity, motivation, and achievement are stored.”

“Webster defines ‘tradition’ as peer pressure from dead people.”

“Studies show that seventy-eight percent of statistics are made up on the spot.”

“A recent survey found that over 55% of people who start an online business do so because they hate wearing pants.”

Don McMillan has a great bit about making outlandish claims using statistics:


3. Deny a common truth.

The opposite of a fact is a falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.” – Niels Bohr

Denying a common truth is about opposing something we’ve been conditioned to accept as true.

Example: Let’s look at comedian Bill Burr’s take on marriage. A common “truth” is that most people are supposed to get married; it’s just what you do. Ol’ Billy Boy denies that common truth:

Lemme ask a question, why the hell do people keep getting married? Isn’t anybody looking at the stats? What’s it, like 3 out of 4 marriages go right down the drain now? People, if you were going skydiving and they told you that three out of four parachutes weren’t gonna open…. You’d be like, ‘Yo forget it I’m not going!’ I don’t like those odds.


Subject = marriage

Premise = marriage + why

Strong premise = marriage + why + unique view (analogy)

This is one of Bill’s most famous bits. Notice how it’s not even necessarily that wild of a premise. But the way he denies this common truth is what makes it special. A popular technique for denying a common truth is to use analogy. Analogy is a great way of imposing your unique perspective on a topic to create a strong premise. On the surface, the topics of marriage and skydiving aren’t related. But when you compare them with the purpose of showing how alike they are, you introduce an incongruity.

When our brains stumble upon an incongruity, we naturally focus on it, because we have a need to solve the puzzle. Incongruity is surprising, and surprise is the quickest way to get attention.

What are some other ideas you’ve been conditioned to believe are true?

A helpful way of finding common truths to deny is to google common idioms and cliches. You can easily tailor these to your presentation subject. “Sales cliches” and “business idioms” return a lot of ammo. Other topics like travel, meetings, airports, PowerPoint presentations, public speaking, etc. also deliver a lot of potential material.

Is there a way you could turn those truths on their heads and make a case for the opposite? (Hint: there’s never not a way.)

Bottom line:

To get their attention, what you say has to be more interesting than what the audience was previously thinking. And a reliable way to be more interesting is to surprise them.