The Secret Power of Using Suspense in Your Presentations


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One of the most common questions people ask me in seminars is how can they do a better job of holding the audience’s attention. One way is to put some suspense in your presentations.

Suspense keeps people alert

Look at the photo to the right. Doesn’t that just beg for you to peek inside the door? People want to look behind a door that has a sign on it that reads: Warning, don’t look behind this door! That’s the power of suspense.

It’s human nature to want to know more.

Play to that nature by giving your audience some information and keep them wanting more.

Do you want to know the key to suspense?

The fact that you keep reading would indicate yes.

By asking a question in the above headline instead of just giving information, I pulled you into the next line. Now, I have to answer that question, eventually, but I don’t have to answer it right away.

That’s the key to suspense.

You have to trust me that the answer is coming and I have to bring you along to that answer.

The key to suspense is not giving away everything too soon.

Agenda slides kill suspense

If you read my blog very often or attend one of my seminars you’ve heard me say I don’t like agenda slides. Now you know one of the reasons why: They kill suspense.

There’s another reason too. I’ll get to that in a minute. It might surprise you a little.

Okay, right now, aren’t you wondering–at least a little–about the other reason? That’s suspense.

Remember, I have to eventually give you the answer. That’s how I bring the presentation, the communication to completion, but by adding a touch of suspense I hold your attention longer and deeper. And by increasing your interest I also increase your retention. When you get to the answer, you’ll hold on to it longer.

Suspense has another benefit too

The other reason I don’t like agenda slides is they limit your flexibility as a presenter. Suspense increases your flexibility.

If you put on a slide the five, 10, 12, or 15 things you plan to accomplish with your presentation then the audience will know if you only got to six, eight, or nine of those items. Then they will leave with a sense of being cheated. They will lack a feeling of completion.

If you use suspense to let your audience feel like you will give them information that will improve their career, even change their lives, but you don’t tell them exactly where in the presentation it will come, you can adjust when you deliver the payoff based on your sense of timing and the amount of time you have to work with.

Suspense should lead to satisfaction

Suspense, when used properly, leads to a feeling of completion. Agenda slides lead to boredom. The choice is yours. Your audience is secretly hoping you’ll choose suspense.

Suspense makes time disappear in a presentation. Agenda slides make people keep track of time. Oh, he has six more items to get to. This will take forever!

The choice is yours. Your audience is secretly hoping you’ll choose suspense.

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Gerry Sandusky – View the original post .


About the author

Gerry Sandusky, is the New York Times best-selling author of Forgotten Sundays, the play-by-play voice for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, the sports director for Baltimore’s WBAL TV, and a noted authority on communication, motivation, perception, and change.

Gerry has won Emmy and Edward R. Murrow awards for outstanding broadcasts.

The son of former NFL coach, John Sandusky, Gerry has found his own niche in coaching as president of The Sandusky Group, a communications-consulting firm.
The Sandusky Group helps professionals who are experts in their field look, feel, and perform better in front of every audience, and influence that audience. The Sandusky Group shows experts how to shine.

Gerry and his wife founded the Joe Sandusky Fund, to honor Gerry’s late brother. The fund grants college scholarships to students who demonstrate passion, talent, initiative, and a drive to fulfil their dreams. Read other posts by

Published On: 23rd Aug 2016

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