3 ways to use anticipation to keep your audience alert (and wanting what you’ve got)

The danger of an audience drifting off mentally when they’re in front of you is as imminent online as when you’re all remote – and, in fact, more so.  Online techniques here , can keep others engaged in meetings and presentations.

A more advanced technique used in meetings, webinars, and presentations, both online and offline, is anticipation.


Why anticipation can feel so good

It’s because you entice, and only deliver the desired goods after a wait.

Basically, you metaphorically show them a chocolate cake but refuse to hand it over.  The glistening laps of chocolate layered onto the cake tempt their eyes, filling mouths soft, sweet blankets of cocoa.

Tell them they’ll get a piece but not yet: stuff it in a cupboard and talk about something else.

Later, you refer back to that delicious delight but swiftly change the subject.  By the time you ask your audience if they’d like to taste the cake, their salivating mouths chant for you to bring it on.

You had them in thrall.

By revealing and giving the cake after a wait, the reward centres of the brain allow a kick of dopamine into the system and, ‘Eureka!’, there’s the feel-good factor of anticipation actualised into the tangible.


The three ways of creating anticipation:

1. Anticipate an offer:

“I’ve got something for you..”

What kind of offers could you have?

  • a cheatsheet
  • free consultation
  • discount code
  • samples


2. Anticipate an outcome

“Scientists have revealed something that will change the way you think about AI.  Firstly I’ll walk you through the experiment…”

You may mention, right at the start the unexpected benefit from a product redesign. Don’t reveal what it is until the end but do remind them of the impending revelation as you go.


3. Anticipate an end to a story.

During a talk on pitching in the Middle East, I told the story of Richard, mild mannered, softly spoken American Banker, instructed to pitch in Abu Dhabi. He was sent out there 3 times from the States and failed to close a deal. He came to me for help.

I described the techniques that I shared with Richard, making my listeners wait to discover what actually happened to him.

By the time, I reached the end of the techniques, the audience was yelling out “But what happened to Richard?”

OK, so you’re probably asking “What DID happen to Richard?”

He learned 5 techniques to communicate in Middle Eastern business contexts and won a deal worth tens of millions of dollars.


Word of caution.

Be careful though that the end of the story, outcome or offer don’t disappoint your audience. ‘Ring me for a 5 min call charged at $5 a minute may not sound as appealing as a 30 min initial consultation and analysis for free.

If you’re using a story, this needs to match the feelings you want to incite in your audience. If Richard learned nothing and failed to come away with the business, how uninspiring would that be?  The message needs to be reinforced by the result: in this case that non-verbals and understanding of cultural context can make or break deals.


Your Action

1. Pinpoint the next presentation or webinar you’re giving.

2. After you’ve planned, pick either an offer, outcome or story.

3. Build it into the opening, mention in the middle and then end on that.

Leave a Comment.

Please note that for privacy reasons your email address is not publicly displayed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share This: