The two kinds of suspense

There are two types of suspense: artificial and intrinsic.

Artificial suspense is what TV casting shows do to you right before an ad brake. They could tell you but don’t – because they know that as soon as they’ve told you, tension falls apart and you walk away (possibly disappointed because the reveal fell short of the promise).

Intrinsic suspense is the opposite. It’s what great stories do. They do tell you! Because that’s precisely why you want to know more.

Revealing the information opens up your curiosity as opposed to shutting it down. It’s much more the start of a new thread rather than the end of the previous one. Rather than walk away because you got what you wanted, it makes you stay because you want to know what happens next.

The same can be achieved with a great marketing story – when your story is so relevant that your audience absolutely needs to hear more about it.

It could e.g. be an eye opener … exactly what they wanted to hear … just what they’ve been looking for all along without even realising it themselves.

And so they beg you to tell them more: How does that work? What would it cost? What would we need to change? What are the requirements? Is there more to it? Can this be applied to other problems? When can we start?

If your product is that good, if it’s exactly the product your customers have been waiting for, then you can skip artificial suspense. You don’t need to hold the best part back. You can reveal it because it’s precisely the thing that makes them want to know more.

In essence, the relevant question to ask is not “How do you make your topic exciting?” but “Why is that crucially relevant for your audience?”

And if it isn’t … then, sure, you can reach for artificial suspense. But the better approach would be to work on relevance.

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Dr. Michael Gerharz

Dr. Michael Gerharz

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