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QuickBites: How You Can Get Your Audience’s Attention by Creating Tension


Have you ever watched reality shows, awards shows, or contests? Then you’ve probably noticed that, when the hosts are just about to announce the winners, they pause … for an extended amount of time! Perhaps a drum roll fills the gap while you watch intently, wondering who will win. And when that’s the case, they have you right where they want you. They have created suspense and tension and got your full attention.


You can take a hint from these shows and use the same idea to get your audience’s attention. Here are a couple of ways to do this.


Let’s say you’re speaking about how to increase sales in 2022. At one point, you might say something like, The number one way to increase sales is … and, once you have their attention, complete the sentence.


Even though you can use this technique at any time, I believe there is no more powerful time than just before you begin your talk.


If you’re speaking on a stage, once you’re introduced and walk out to where you’re going to begin, stand with confidence, make eye contact, smile if appropriate, and pause for four beats — about four seconds. And it doesn’t have to be on a stage. You can do this in a function room, conference room, and anywhere you speak.


The first time you do this, the audience won’t be the only ones feeling tension. You will be, too, because it’s going to feel like it’s 15 or even 30 seconds. Don’t let this dissuade you. It’s too good a tool to ignore. 


This brief pause triggers suspense, suspense generates tension, and tension demands attention. And once you have the audience’s attention, you’ll be able to share with them the information that means so much to them.


Remember … tension demands attention!