What’s In It For Me: The Key to Engaging Your Audience

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You. This article has been written especially for you.

In the relentless digital age, persuasion is 99% attention 1% inspiration. Without immediate engagement, your content is a whisper in the wind. The simple truth? Every audience member silently screams, ‘What’s in it for me?’

If you’re not answering this primal call, you’re forgettable. It’s time to master the art of dynamic communication: in this article, I will reveal how you can also write (or speak, create videos, presentations, etc.), to please your audience. In a way that they feel seen, heard, and understood.

Persuasion is 99% attention and 1% inspiration

Have you ever spoken to a distracted person, room or auditorium?

Without attention, your ideas disappear. The Romans used to say “Verba volant,” words fly.

Attention. Is the main currency of the information age.

How will persuade your audience to give you their attention? Having their ear is the most difficult part. Starting from their attention, your path to persuading them will be easy.

It all starts with something as simple as self-interest.

The Universal Language of Self-Interest

I can read your mind. When you’re driving a car, anyone slower than you is an idiot. Anyone quicker a maniac.

When you’re walking, you feel bicycles around you are dangerously fast. When you’re cycling, pedestrians are always in the way.

Each of us is the center of our universe. Billions of universes on this earth.

That’s a good thing. I know what’s on your mind. You’re asking one simple question.

We ask this question all day, multiple times a day.

For instance, when you’re scrolling social media. Why do you stop where you stop? What do you read what you read? Why do you like what you like?

Have you ever thought about it?

You stop and like and comment each time you see YOU in the content, image, or mood in front of you. Not just your photo but something that represents you.

If I can mirror your values, you will give me your attention.

That’s what great communicators shorten in WII FM, everyone’s favorite radio station.
This acronym stands for “what’s in it for me?” and every sane, self-centered person is asking themselves this question all the time.


Except when they are presenting. Then they forget that the audience asks them “what’s in it for me?”
When they fail to answer this question, their presentation falls flat.

Why is so hard to answer this simple question?

“What’s in it for me?”

You can’t answer from your point of view. But from the vantage point of the audience.

What does your audience want?

This step gets in your head. If your presentation is about quantum physics you will say “my audience wants to know about quantum physics.” WRONG!

Did you wake up thinking “I hope to learn more about INSERT SUBJECT today?”

Noooooo! We go about our day thinking about mundane and personal stuff. And you know it.

So next time you start writing content, start by putting yourself in your audience’s shoes.

How to get attention by leveraging our common selfish nature

You’re selfish. And that’s a good thing. Let me explain.

To have your attention, I need to understand what you’re interested in.

Otherwise, I will never be able to answer the question in your mind: “what’s in it for me?”
And I already know what you’re interested in. Yourself.

Let’s be a bit more specific.

The five concepts that are guaranteed to persuade any audience

Rich Litvin says:

“People only buy four things. Time, money, status and peace of mind.

If you try to sell something other than those four things, you will fail. When you sell all four, you will thrive. 

If you want to be successful make sure you let people know how working with you will lead them to more time, money, status and peace of mind.”

I’ve heard it said in different ways over the years. The most memorable was:

“People want only three things. To get paid. Get laid. Live forever.”

These lists do not give us the full picture of human desires and needs. But they are not so far off.

Let’s try and answer this question: “What’s in it for me?”

Time: Do I save time? Do I gain time?

Status: Do I increase my status? Can I grow my career? Can I show myself in a new light?

Money: Do I save more? Do I get more?

Peace of mind: do I sleep better? Is my life easier? Can I quiet a worry?

Belonging: Do I get more connected to my peers? Do I get to know new people and extend my circle? Do I make my peers safer and better cared for? Do I join a new club?

And if you think you also have altruistic goals like fighting climate change, being engaged in politics, doing voluntary work. Please be honest: Do you do it for status, relationships, or peace of mind? Probably, it’s a combination of the three.

Let me spell it out: Communicating with humans is the easiest thing ever. You just need to encounter their basic needs:

  • time
  • status
  • money
  • peace of mind
  • belonging

How to change the perspective and answer WIIFM correctly

One of the few universal communication principles is that you always start with your audience.

I’ve asked you to answer “what’s in it for me?” and even suggested the answer “time, status, money, peace of mind, belonging.”

I want to take a step further. At the start of each of my workshops, I ask my participants to draw a persona of their audience.

There are a gazillion frameworks to map a persona. What I want you to do is tell me:
📍 Who they are, how old, where do they live.
🏡 Who they are at home: family, hobbies, pets, passions, free time.
💼 Who they are at work: role, attitude, strengths and weaknesses, relationship with the team
🙀 What they fear: situation, context, downsides.
✅ What they hope: goal, direction, upsides.
❤️ What core values do they hold: what keeps them on track and motivated.

This process is guaranteed to get you out of your head. And gets you on track to become a great communicator.

I ask my participants to draw their persona by adding some sticky notes to this shape

Screenshot 2023 09 29 at 13.54.18

Mapping your audience forces you out of your head. And it gets you in their heads.

Now that you know the principle to get their attention, let’s look at all the tactics you can apply to engage your audience consistently.

Speak their language

SEO, KPI, CRO. Funnel hacking, workshop facilitation, account management.
When you speak to an audience, make sure your jargon makes sense to them. It takes a second to tell me if by CRO you mean Chief Revenue Officer, Chief Risk Officer or Conversion Rate Optimization. Account manager means something in one industry and the opposite in another.

Understanding your audience’s familiarity with industry-specific terms is crucial. By ensuring clarity and avoiding assumptions, you foster a more inclusive and engaging environment. This builds trust and rapport with your listeners.

Focus on why and how

Tell me what you’re talking about. But immediately after please tell me why you’re taking about it and how does it work.

Explaining the ‘why’ and ‘how’ makes your content richer. It helps people understand and remember your message better. By addressing these aspects, you’re not just sharing information; you’re offering insights and nurturing understanding.

Make ideas clear by telling related stories

“I help people go from zero to professional speakers. Like that time I helped E. talk for the first time on stage. To a 1.000 people. And E. went from zero to 1.000 in 6 weeks of work with me. Want to try it for yourself?”
If you deconstruct this, you will see that I make a claim, tell a story around that claim, and then call you to action.

Stories humanize your message, making it more relatable and easier to grasp. They serve as evidence of your claims, adding credibility and authenticity. A well-told story can be the bridge between abstract concepts and tangible results.

Don’t cram too much information

Your imposter syndrome dictates you dump 100% of your knowledge on your audience.
My advice is to be selective. Distill your content to the 1 to 5 essential bits of information that are most likely to move your audience. Deliver these essential bits of information, tell me why and how they work, and provide examples and stories.

Overloading your audience can lead to disengagement and confusion. By focusing on the essentials, you ensure that your key messages are not only heard but also remembered. Quality always trumps quantity in effective communication.

Take your audience on a journey

We want to go places with you. We’re looking for leaders who will open our eyes and help our imagination. Do that for your audience. Set a starting point and a destination. And take your audience on a journey.

A journey implies progression, growth, and discovery. By structuring your talk as a journey, you invite your audience to evolve with you, making them more invested in the outcome. It’s not just about the destination but the transformative experience along the way.

Pause. For drama

On stage, you need time to breathe. And the audience, too. Following your thoughts is a lot of work. When you pause, you give a gift to your audience.

Pauses are powerful. They allow for reflection, understaning, and anticipation. In the realm of communication, silence can be as impactful as words. Use it strategically to emphasize points and allow your message to resonate.

Ask questions, interact, and let your audience talk

Your audience has all the answers. You, not so much. Interact with them. Ask questions. Get their opinion. Don’t limit yourself to a show of hands. Be one with them.

Engaging with your audience transforms a monologue into a dialogue. It fosters a sense of community and makes your audience feel valued. Their insights can also offer fresh perspectives, enriching the discussion.

Use little text on your slides. Show compelling visuals

Never have more than one concept per slide. Slides are free. Never make a list. Always give space to your ideas.
If you have your next 5 talking points on your slide, your audience will be reading point number 5 while you’re blabbering about points 1 and 2. This means that they are ahead and you’re behind. You never want to be behind. Abolish lists.

Visuals are powerful tools that can enhance comprehension and retention. They can evoke emotions, clarify complex concepts, and capture attention. By keeping your slides simple and visually appealing, you ensure that they complement your spoken words rather than compete with them.

Tell your audience how you’re going to use their time

At the start of the presentation, tell them how you will use the time. “We’ll have 30 minutes together. I will tell you two stories, 10 minutes each. And then we’ll have 10 minutes for q&a.”
Audiences love to be in control. And if you give them a clear idea of how you use time, they will feel more at ease. Plus, we all need toilet breaks.

Setting clear expectations from the outset establishes trust. It shows respect for your audience’s time and allows them to prepare for the flow of the presentation mentally. This clarity can enhance their overall experience and receptivity.

Look them in the eye

Acknowledge each part of the room by making eye contact with both the people in the front and the ones in the back. The people in the middle, in the left, and in the right.
Always hold your eye contact for an entire sentence. Move to another section of the audience only in between sentences.

Eye contact is a powerful non-verbal tool that establishes connection and trust. It shows that you’re present, attentive, and genuinely interested in your audience. Distributing your gaze makes everyone feel seen and included, fostering a more intimate and engaging environment.

Dress to impress

If you’re talking on the stage your clothes are a costume.

Your attire is an extension of your message and brand. It sets the tone and can influence perceptions. Dressing for the stage ensures that your appearance complements, rather than distracts from, your content.

Occupy space on stage

If you’re on a stage, yours is a performance. Use the space. Don’t hide behind a lectern. Don’t make yourself small. Don’t move around aimlessly. But use space intentionally. Use gestures. Your body is the best slide there is.

Your physical presence on stage can amplify your message. By using space confidently and purposefully, you command attention and exude authority. Your movements and gestures can underscore your words, making your delivery more dynamic and memorable.

Make them feel like a group

Your audience is going through a shared experience: your talk gives them that experience. They are in on your secrets. They are part of your inner circle. Make them feel like a group.

Creating a sense of unity fosters engagement. When people feel part of something bigger, they are more likely to be receptive and participative.

Find your communication style

Most of you dress sharp. Care for your appearance. Want to make a good impression. How about your communication style? Is it developing in the right direction?
Do you know what you’re doing right and where you should correct it?

You must find and sharpen your communication style. It’s the essence of authenticity, allowing you to connect deeply with your audience. By being self-aware and continuously refining your style, you ensure your message is heard and felt.

I have a free training where I introduce you to my process to find your own personal communication style. I would love for you to watch it.

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