You already know the question you need to answer to make your presentations great

Written by Matteo Cassese

You already know the key to presentation excellence. You just forgot about it. Let me remind you.

Every time I am walking or cycling I think that cars go too fast and are terribly dangerous.

Every time I am driving a car I think that pedestrians and bicycles are too slow and get in my way.

Same person: two conflicting world views that are simply based on context. If I walk I see the cars in a certain way, and from the vantage point of the steering wheel I stop identifying as a pedestrian and see the world in a completely different manner.

This role reversal happens all the time in presentations. When we are in the audience we are fully capable of seeing the flaws in the presentation that we are following. As presenters instead it’s hard for us to identify the same flaws in our own presentation.

When you are presenting there is one simple question that can help you figure out exactly what your audience wants. Your audience is asking this question over and over again, without rest.

Unfortunately when you are tasked with creating a presentation you forget about this question, like I forget that I once was a pedestrian every time I get behind the wheel.

Other priorities kick in:
– you have to please your boss;
– you need to refine your storytelling;
– you need to adhere to the corporate template;
– you need to pitch your business or yourself.

You know all about this question, because you have asked the same question every time you have been an audience member.

What’s in it for me?

KEEP CALM AND WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME_ - KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON Image Generator - brought to you by the Ministry of Information

We all know it: but what does it really mean.

This question, first of all, is asked by every single member of your audience, not by the audience as a group. So everyone will have an individual answer to the question, everyone will look for their own “what’s in it for me” inside your presentation.

“What’s in it for me” means: why should I pay attention? Why should I change my focus from the comfort of my own internal thoughts and worries to follow you? Why should I drop my smartphone, close my laptop and stow my tablet and start listening?

It also means: what part of this presentation speaks directly to me? What do I identify with? Am I the protagonist of any of the situations highlighted in this presentation? Am I involved, impacted or at least influenced by what is being presented?
Or it this presentation about other – different – people?

It means: how do I benefit? Do I get money, fame, beauty, happiness from this presentation? Where is my personal advantage? At what point of this presentation do I advance my career, increase my brain power and become more likable?

Fact is, the answer to all those questions is different person by person and – I’m so sorry – you will not be able to please everyone with your presentation.

To maximize your chances of providing meaningful content to the largest part of your audience you can apply those strategies:

Help your audience identify early why they should pay attention: who are you? Why are you speaking? How long are you going to speak? How is your talk structured?

Engage them with a good story arc: structure your presentation by easing your audience into a topic and providing a clear high point towards the end.

 Fill your presentation of actionable “benefits” for your audience: give away the most valuable information you have to them.

Correctly answering “What’s in it for me” drives most of the marketing, advertising and sales that happen on the planet.

Marketers spend millions to put “you” inside all sort of stories in their advertising.

Often advertisers preach to the wrong choir: they show a toy advert to singles with no kids or a male hygiene product to females. It has happened to you in the past. Do you remember what happened? There was no “you” in the message, it wasn’t “for you” and you disconnected. This happens to your audience members when you don’t address “What’s in it for me” correctly.

Advertisers have a way to compensate for that disconnect: they spend, spend and spend to get more exposure and finally reach their target.

Have you got the same budget they have? Probably not: this is why you need to make sure that each presentation is as effective as possible and always addresses this hugely important question.

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