99% Of Presenters Don’t Use This – But You Can’t Get Action Without It

Want to get inside your audiences’ brains?

Cracking the cerebral code is your golden ticket to influence skills. Whether you’re pitching a ground-breaking idea, captivating an audience with your public speaking skills, or simply aiming to sway others, tapping into their grey matter is a start but it’s not just about hijacking their synapses; you’re also aiming for the heartstrings.

So, in the art of influence, remember: it’s a mind-and-emotion combo that seals the deal!

Winning your audience over is a critical factor in presenting skills, public-speaking skills, influencing skills and communication skills.

This vital factor could be the solution to increasing your departmental budget, winning new business, asking your colleagues to change their behaviour or getting clients to buy your services.

It’s the one component in presenting that will make you stand out substantially from everyone else, making you both exceptional and memorable.

What communication skills do I use to get inside their brain and win them over?

How many times have you sat in a presentation and thought to yourself:

“Why am I listening to this?  What do I get out of it?” Even if the content was interesting, you were probably left wondering:

“What’s in it for Me?” [WIIFM]

Nearly EVERY single presentation I’ve ever seen lacks this essential element to win people over. If an audience can’t see how something benefits them, it’s highly unlikely they’ll buy into it.

Finding the essence of what motivates them is the axis of your entire talk or communication strategy. Here’s how to find that key message for ANY audience and situation.

Examples of WIIFMs for your audience

In 1943, Abraham Maslow, a social psychologist, promoted the Hierarchy of Needs, a theory of motivation that is as relevant today as it was nearly 80 years ago.

It’s classically shown as here and you can pull needs from any one of those stages.

To save you the time and energy, I’ve already done it with a list of my top 10, below.  In fact, I have 15 more that I show in training but these are the most common:


To save you the time and energy, I’ve already done it with a list of ten of the most common needs below:

  1. To make money
  2. To save money
  3. To save time
  4. To avoid effort
  5. To gain comfort
  6. To improve health
  7. To escape pain
  8. To protect our reputation
  9. To gain control over aspects of your life
  10. To increase our enjoyment

How WIIFMs work

I was lucky enough to see Margaret Thatcher’s ex-wingman, Michael Portillo, speak at an event at which I was also giving a keynote talk.

His task was to talk to his audience about leadership. However, most of his audience were uninterested with leading organisations or departments. They were hairdressers and salon owners. He took the title of ‘leadership’ and twisted it as deftly as any hair stylist, recounting that in the face of political turmoil and the expectations of his peers, he had to find his own way through a career that led him from the highest echelons of politics to making documentaries about single parents on the breadline.

His message was strong:

“You never know what’s going to happen.

Despite the wishes of your bosses, your siblings, parents and community, life can take you along unexpected paths. It’s in the ability to trust yourself, to lead yourself through these unplanned trials and tribulations, that you will surely rise to your potential.”

Anyone can relate to the idea that “you never know what’s going to happen”. His message was relatable to everyone in the room. That talk was over 10 years ago, but members of that audience remember it as if it was yesterday.

That’s the power of expressing the WIIFM – the right motivator to inspire your audience.

“What if my presentation subject matter has no WIIFM?”

Even if it’s simply ‘giving information’ the general theme is probably about helping your audience to decide the right strategy for profit or efficiency.

To help you locate WIIFM, use the seek, twist and scrap technique. Let’s say you’ve been told to present 25 slides to your audience, filled with content. You’ll do your listeners the biggest favour if you:

  • Seek: the over-arching WIIFM. That will be articulated throughout your pitch or talk.  All your content feeds into that. Then dump the slides that are irrelevant to the at need.
  • Twist: sometimes you’re given a talk that doesn’t seem to match the needs of your audience, as in my Michael Portillo story. Twist the theme so that it’s pertinent to your audience.
  • Scrap: dispose of information that doesn’t meet the WIIFM. They don’t need to know what doesn’t serve their needs.  If your content doesn’t fit that WIIFM, cut it out. Scrapping is the essential element of all presentations, especially when you have so much detail at hand. I help my clients define what to keep and what to throw using this method here.

Ignore what your customers say

“What?  You’ve just told me to hone in on the customers’ needs and now you’re saying this!” you exclaim.

As Simon Sinek points out in his book ‘Start with Why’, your customer will often focus on the features they want. For example, they may ask for a car with leather seats, low petrol consumption or ‘gas’ if you’re from the States. This tells you what your audience wants.  Most pitches and presentations cover the what and how but not the WHY.

This completely misses the point.

Apple is Sinek’s famous example of a company that is technically no different from its competitors but emphasises the ‘Why’ constantly.  You want to challenge the status quo with creativity and style?  Buy Apple. Apple is one of the most successful companies on the planet because of a consistent, inspiring message that resonates through every single presentation and marketing campaign. By the way, Apple seem to have forgotten their audience in their 2024 advertising campaign. They show art and musical instruments being crushed as they’re now apparently irrelevant, having been replaced by the new thinner I-Pad.  This has caused a backlash with creators, their market, showing the importance of a consistent WIIFM if you’re in Tech Marketing.

It really is all in your mind

When you talk about ‘whats’ and ‘hows’, you’re triggering the ‘new’ brain, the Neocortex, the part that sorts and analyses facts and figures. However, the Neocortex doesn’t drive behaviour. Your ‘old’ brain, the Limbic brain drives behaviour, responding to the ‘whys’. This part of the brain is related to triggering emotions such as trust, loyalty and happiness.

How to discover your audience’s ‘WHY?’, even if you don’t know who they are

In this article is a list of questions to ask and suggested tactics for your use.  These will help you to dig up the audience motivators. If you’re able to trigger your audience’s needs you’ll win their emotions. The facts and figures will add validity to your argument but it’s the ‘why’ that creates the change.

Your Action:

  1. When you’re given a presentation, you’ll naturally determine the subject, then find out who you’re talking to…
  2. This may mean a call to the organiser or looking up attendees.  What you can do is in more detail here.
  3. You only include in the presentation what links to the WIIFM. If nothing does and you try the twist technique but it sounds too contrived, then scrap it.

If you want to step up your presentation skills or your influencing skills,  – either one-to-one or for your teams – have a look at my pitching and presenting skills courses here and contact me, Frankie Kemp to discuss all my communication skills courses.

This article was originally written in 2019 and was completely updated in May 2024.

Photo by PhotoMIX Company from pexels.com


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