As I sit here on my computer trolling the forums occasionally looking for a thread to respond to, sitting on my desk across the room from me is my top hat. There's nothing unusual about it really. It's a standard run of the mill felt top hat, with black ribbon. Nothing unusual except for the slight modification I made to it to incorporate a silver skull and cross bones centered in the front. This top hat has become the center piece of my performance costume, and the inspiration that governed the assembly of my characters "look".
Why do I bring this up you ask? That's a good question. There's no way you would have even known that I'm looking at that hat unless I made mention of it. Furthermore why should you even care? It's just a hat after all. ...or is it? Could it be that it is something more? I don't mean to allude that it's magical in any sense. That would just be silly, but the spell that it does cast on people is something that shouldn't be ignored. If anything, it should be studied, understood, and then re focused to be harnessed into a formidable weapon capable of drawing in mass attention. You see, that hat alone has gotten more complements and started more conversations with people that I probably wouldn't have interacted with on my own. My point is: That hat is a hook.
I'm not certain if a hook is an industry term already or not. I don't know if psychologists all sit around in their offices reviewing case study notes and refer to my observation in the same way I do. However, at this point I am willing to commit to hook as being my term, and perhaps I may even be lucky enough to coin a phrase. With that bit of disclaimer out of the way let me get down to the point. Everyone who entertains should have a hook. But what is it? A hook is a tool, or device you can use to spark conversation with others and provide a natural, interesting, and easy segway into what you do as an entertainer. It can be a hat, a cane, a pair of glasses, a unique looking deck of playing cards, a coat, shoes, it can be anything that sparks an interest in you, and encourages a conversation to start. It can be something rare, unusual, unique, or foreign. It can be something colorful, something exotic, or out of the ordinary. To be effective though, it should be something that stands out or is out of place. Such as shuffling a deck of Ghost playing cards while in line at Disneyland. The Ghost deck isn't what people normally expect to see in a deck of cards so it becomes a hook into conversation. "Hey man, cool cards. Where did you get those?" A hook really is up to your imagination and character. What ever works for you. It's something you'll have to play with to nail down the specifics, but once you've got it it's something that you'll love using!
I've heard it many times, and I never get tired of getting complements on my hat. People will say to me: "Hey man, that's a nice hat! Where did you get it?" To which I reply that I had it made for my show... and BAM! Now I've got their interest. They will want to know more, and the only natural progression in conversation leaves them to ask 'what show' to which I answer I'm a magician. I've now opened the doors to perform some magic, entertain, gather information, and possibly scout out my mark to see if there's an interest in booking my talent for a future gig.
There's a difference between you going up to someone, meeting them, and then trying to impress upon them who you are, and why you are interesting, and someone coming up to you because they think you are interesting! If your the one starting the conversation It's an uphill fight sometimes. Especially if you are trying to warm them up to the idea of working with you. You may not be exactly what they are looking for (to tall, to thin, to fat, to young, to old, etc) so they have you half tuned out the moment you said hello. However, if you use a hook properly now you're the one they are interested in talking with. They want to feel you out which makes your job of impressing them all that much more simple. Actually, you've already finished the job, the only thing left for you to do is reel them in!
It's something to consider. So I ask you, what's your hook?