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Puzzle Opener


Techniques Public speaking > Preparing the Presentation > Puzzle Opener

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Open a presentation or speech by offering a puzzle of some sort to the audience.

The puzzle should be related in some way to what you are going to present. It can be directly related, such as where the answer to the problem is a key part of your presentation, or it may be a metaphor, where you presentation is linked to a similar situation.

Keep the puzzle simple and easy to explain and understand. You may ask the audience to call out what they think the answer is, or the puzzle may be rhetorical, where you do not expect an answer.

It can be a good idea to pause to let them think about the puzzle for a short while, particularly if you are going to give the answer soon after.


A man is found murdered inside a room that is locked from the inside. How could this happen? ... Over the past year I have felt like Sherlock Holmes as I have searched for the key to spontaneous cell death... 

Here's a puzzle: How come some of the world's most popular entertainment companies seem always on the brink of bankruptcy? In my analysis we'll see that the answer is not what you might first expect. They do manage their finances well and are not wasteful...


Posing a puzzle engages the audience. It asks them to think and so join in. It provokes them and makes them curious about the answer.

We all have a need for completion and when we have a puzzle to which we are not fully sure of the answer, we feel a tension that keeps us paying attention. Even if we think we have the answer, we often will stay alert until we have this confirmed (this is a good reason not to give the answer immediately).

See also

Completion principle

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