Capture Your Audience By Using A Bit Of Mystery In Your Next Speech

Add some mystery to your speech and watch your audience pay attention
Add some mystery to your speech and watch your audience pay attention
Image Credit: Kristie Tuthill

The one thing that every speaker wants is for their next audience to pay attention to their speech. I mean really pay attention. Pay attention so much so that even if their phone stated to ring or vibrate or do both things they wouldn’t even notice because you had so thoroughly captured their attention that they could not take their eyes off of you. This is a great concept, but just exactly what can we do that would make it happen?

Add Some Mystery Your Next Speech

If we want to have any hope of using the importance of public speaking to capture and hold on to our audience’s attention in a deep and meaningful way, then we’re going to have to find out what they really care about. This can be a real trick – your audience is made up of a bunch of different types of people. The things that they share in common are probably few and far between. What this means for us as speakers is that we are going to be challenged to find something to add to our next speech that will appear to some universal nature that is present in everyone in our audience.

The good news is that we all already know what this magical addition to our next speech is: mystery. The dictionary defines mystery as being “anything that is kept secret or remains unexplained or unknown”. When you decide to use a mystery in your next speech, you are going to have to add the first part of it somewhere near the beginning of your speech. What you’ll do is to reveal to your audience some event or occurrence that happened that left everyone puzzled. It can be a murder, a disappearance, or a riddle that seemed to have no solution. Take the time to craft a good setup for your mystery. Explain to your audience when this event happened (in the past, today, or sometime in the future), where it happened, and who was involved.

As a speaker you realize that the mystery that you are adding to your speech is a tool that you are going to use to get your audience to pay attention to your speech. What this means is that once you’ve laid out the events that occurred that caused something puzzling to exist, you now have to walk away from it. Your audience is going to be processing what you’ve just told them and they are going to be desperately wanting to know how this story works out. However, you are not going to be telling them.

The Power Of Mystery

Let’s face it, everyone loves a good mystery. The most popular form of books are romance novels, but guess what, mysteries come in second. The reason that we like mystery stories is because they appeal to our sense of curiosity. We enjoy action. We love to analyze the psychological makeup and motivational drives of characters. We especially are as interested in how and why a crime is committed as we are in who committed it. What this means for us as a speaker is that once we share the opening of a mystery with our audience at the start of our speech, we’ve got them hooked.

It’s what you do next that is going to be the most important. I don’t care if you are giving a speech about how to save the spotted owl or the importance of maximizing your investment in the company’s 401k program, you’ve got a speech to give. You’re going to have to find a way to tie the mystery that you started your speech off with to the main content of your speech. As you dive into your speech content you are going to want to remain cognizant of the fact that you have started but not completed a mystery. If you can work additional information about the mystery into your speech as you give it, you’ll be able to keep bringing your audience along.

Once you’ve delivered the majority of your speech, you are going to want to swing back to the mystery that you started at the beginning of the speech. You are going to need to have a way to smoothly transition from your spotted owl / 401k material back to the components of the mystery. Once you’ve made this transition, you can share with your audience how the clues were put together, the riddle solved, the killers caught, and the mystery was solved. You’ll leave your audience feeling as though they got both a great speech and an engrossing mystery delivered to them.

What All Of This Means For You

In this modern world in which we live, we find ourselves giving speeches to audiences that now have more ways for their attention to wander from what we are saying than ever before. What all of us would like to have is a fool proof way to grab and hold our audience’s attention so that we can share with them the benefits of public speaking. It turns out that we have a tool that will allow us to do this very thing: mystery.

If at the start of our speech, we start to share a mystery with our audience, we’re going to grab their attention. The mystery will detail some event that occurs (a murder, a robbery, a disappearance, etc.). You’ll lay out what happened, but you won’t tell your audience how it happened. Once you’ve introduced them to the mystery, you’ll then launch into your main speech. You’ll need to blend the mystery into the opening of your speech so that there is a smooth transition. During your speech you can reference back to the mystery several times. After you’ve covered your main points, you can then revert to telling your audience about the mystery. This is when you wrap it up and share with them how it happened, and more importantly, who did it.

We all love a good mystery. A speaker who can wrap their next speech inside of a clever mystery will have found the way to grab onto their audience’s attention and get them to put their phones down. Tease them along during the speech and keep providing more details about the mystery without sharing enough to wrap it up. If you save the “big reveal” until the end of your speech, your audience will be hanging on your every word. Use a mystery in your next speech to solve the problem of an audience whose attention can wander.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that any mystery can be used or are some mystery topics off limits?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I don’t think that any of us would disagree with the statement that “humor lends power to any speech.” If we want to make an audience laugh, it’s going to take three different things all working together so that our audience can realize the importance of public speaking. The first is, of course, us – the speaker. The next is going to be the speech that we are going to be giving. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is our audience. All too often in our rush to throw together our next speech we can end up forgetting about the importance of understanding the audience that we’ll be talking to. This is where customizing your comedy comes in to play.