Want People to Pay Attention? Do This.


There's a simple storytelling technique that’s been used in blockbuster movies, best-selling books and binge-worthy TV shows for decades.

It’s the reason why people find themselves stopping their scroll to click and read more of an instagram or facebook post.

Captivating speakers, copywriters, advertisers and influencers all use it to keep audiences hanging on their every word.

And it’s called an open loop.

What’s an open loop?

It’s a strategy used to pique someone’s curiosity by only revealing part of a story. An open loop encourages people to watch, listen or read further to uncover the ending or solution. I’ll share some examples in a moment, but first, let's chat about why this works so well.

Our brains are wired to crave completeness and when we don’t get it, it creates emotional tension, making us feel uncomfortable and fixated on the situation until we can complete or resolve it. This is also known as the “The Zeigarnik Effect”.

So, when presented with an engaging storyline without a clear ending, we're more likely to click, listen, watch or read until we are rewarded with a resolution.

There are a few different ways you can use open loops to engage your audience.

The Cliffhanger

If you've been taking notes from your favourite drama, you won't have any trouble knowing how to leave your emails, videos or blog posts on a cliffhanger.

Caitlin Bacher uses an open loop in her email by showing her revenue results but leaving out the details of how she achieved that spike in revenue, promising them in the next email. Of course, readers will want to open the next one to find out what happens so they can close the loop.

The Unexpected Opener

All good news outlets and bloggers know the power of a headline or opening paragraph that piques curiosity. Amy Porterfield does this in her instagram post when she claims she’s agreed to fail 100 times this year and encourages her followers to keep reading to understand why. You can use this open loop by leading with a statement or story that leaves people asking questions.


The Pain or Desire

This is one you’ve probably heard about before. You can set up an open loop by painting a picture of your audience’s current challenges or desires that leaves them wanting to exactly how they can overcome or achieve them.

Neil Patel does this on his blog post by offering a hack that will boost ecommerce sales. He opens the loop by talking about how good this strategy is, without actually revealing what it is. He then teases small amounts of information before finally revealing what it is.

Closing what you open

Now that you know about open loops, it’s important that you close them, too. If you’ve ever read through a click-baity article only to find that it doesn’t satisfy your curiosity, you’ll know how annoying and frustrating it can be to not get the answers or information you were promised.

I know you don't want to annoy your audience. And you definitely don't want to be spammy, so make sure to use open loops sparingly. And, when you do, make sure you reward your audience’s attention by giving them the payoff (information/solution) they are craving.

Ok, now I've got some questions for you —

  • Do you use open loops in your marketing, speeches or presentations? If not, will you be trying them on for size?
  • Did you catch the open loops I used in this blog post?

Let me know in the comments! And, if you liked this article, don’t forget to share it with your followers or friends.

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