99% of presenters don’t use this – but you can’t get action without it

I can get into your brain.


You wanna know how?

Before I let on, I’m going to tell you how you can win people over – by getting inside their brains in pitches, presenting, marketing: in fact any context where you need to influence others.  Not only will you access peoples’ brains, but their emotions too.

This vital factor is key 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.

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:



  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


Here’s how it works:

I was lucky enough to see Margaret Thatcher’s ex-wingman, Michael Portillo, speak at an event at which I was also presenting.   Lucky, not because I’m of the same political mindset as him, but because he’s such an excellent speaker.

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 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.”

That talk was over 10 years ago, but members of that audience remember it as if was yesterday.  He made the message relevant and clear and, in doing so, inspired an audience who’d previously been interested in swapping hair tint tips.

That’s the power of expressing the WIIFM.


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

Then, seek, twist and scrap (sounds like some anarchic dance style…)

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.

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 for 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, you can cut it out.


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.

I’m not an Apple evangelist by the way.  I have Android because working an Iphone is about as intuitive to me as opening a tin of tomatoes with my teeth.

However, it’s one of the most successful companies on the planet because of a consistent inspiring message that resonates through every single presentation and marketing campaign.



It really is all in your mind

When you talk about ‘Whats’ and ‘Hows’, you’re triggering the ‘new’ brain, the Neocortex, that sorts and analyses facts and figures but it doesn’t drive behaviour.

Your ‘old’ brain, the Limbic brain, which does drive behaviour responds to the ‘Whys’, 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.

Here’s a list of questions to ask and suggested tactics for your use.  These will help you to dig up the audience motivators.


Trigger your audience’s needs and 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 what links to the WIIFM. If it doesn’t try the twist and it sounds too contrived, then scrap it.


Want to step up your presentation skills – either one-to-one or for your teams?  Go right here.  I’ve even a whole online presentation course as well, if that’s your thing…


Photo by PhotoMIX Company from pexels.com


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