I was reading another interesting blog called The Edited Life. There was a post recently called Fire the gun based on a quote that you may find interesting:
“If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.” -Anton Chekhov
This works for speaking too. Don’t introduce something in your opening and just leave it hanging there. Tie it together in at least one of your main points and also in your conclusion.
Once you create that question in the minds of your audience, you want to be deliberate in how (and how long) you choose to leave that question in their mind. Conventional wisdom is to answer it soon, since leaving it unanswered in their minds could be a distraction.
For example, suppose you are giving a presentation on supervision techniques. In your opening, you ask the question, “Have you ever had someone cry during a performance evaluation?” You also ask a couple of other questions related to front-line supervisors. How long do you wait to tell your story of having someone cry in your office?
If you spend a lot of time on other points, without “letting the gun go off”, you may find your audience more curious about the coming cry-story then what you are saying now. Of course, there could be times when you want to build the suspense toward an amazing story, but if that’s the case the audience needs to know it is still coming.
Just like in writing, speakers need to make sure to tie off those loose ends. If it’s in your opening, it should be there for a reason. You don’t want your audience sitting there wondering when you’ll answer that question.
And yes, I have had someone cry in an evaluation once and no, it wasn’t because I’m mean. I know you were curious…