The magical question to increase tension and suspense

In a great movie or book, the question “What happens next” is basically the definition of tension and suspense. Whenever there’s suspense in a movie, we want to know what’s next. When there’s tension in a conversation, we want to relieve the tension.

“What’s next?” is also the magical question that keeps a speech in the flow. If you want to increase tension in your speech, the most important question to ask yourself is “What will my audience be dying to know right at this point in my speech?”

Leaving aside all the theoretical frameworks that teach us how to structure a compelling speech, this one question gets right to the heart of the matter. When you get that question right, you’ll end up at exactly the right structure without ever having to worry about any rhetorical theory.

To bring you on track to finding the appropriate question, here are a few variations for what your audience might be dying to know next:

  • “How is that possible?”
  • “Why is that?”
  • “What can we do about it?”
  • “How does this relate to our experience from that other project?”
  • “How did you manage to overcome that?”
  • “What does it cost?”

So, what’s your audience dying to hear next?

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Dr. Michael Gerharz

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