When I was a Buyer, I lost count of the amount of sales presentations I saw that began with the ‘About us’ slide. What inevitably followed was at least a 5 minute self-congratulatory trumpeting from the presenter about how amazing their company was. The problem was, I didn’t care. All I wanted to know was could they do the job at a decent price and quality. To make sure you don’t make the same mistake, all you need to do is constantly think about the WIIFT (What’s In It For Them).
The great arbiter
The WIIFT is a wonderful help when it comes to thinking about, writing and delivering your presentation, because at any point you can stop and ask yourself “what’s in it for them?” If the answer is “nothing”, then don’t include it in your presentation (if you’re at the planning or writing stages), or stop saying what you’re saying and replace it with something that is of direct relevance to your audience. This should mean, particularly if used in the planning stages, that by the time your presentation meets your audience, it will be solely focussed on them, which will be like music to their ears.
Why is it so important?
There are a number of answers to this one. Firstly, people are busy, and generally would much rather hear a 10 minute, focussed presentation rather than a 30 minute rambling one. Secondly, if your presentation is all about the WIIFT, it will probably be a fairly good one, which will make you stand out from the sea of awful presentations that are seen on a much too frequent basis. Finally, it works at a subconscious level too. People tend to think that to build rapport you have to be interesting. Actually, the fastest way to build rapport with someone is to be genuinely interested in them. The reason of course is simple, it’s very flattering when someone is interested in us. It is this same principle which makes presentations that are WIIFT focussed much more successful than their egotistical counterparts.
So how do we do it?
The best part about all this is that it’s one of the easiest things to implement. Go to any presentation that you’ve ever made, open up the slides (I’m going to hazard a guess that you used PowerPoint!) and for each one ask yourself “What was in this for them? How was this relevant / helpful to that audience?” If you can’t come up with a clear answer, then that is a warning sign that you were doing the presentation equivalent of flexing your muscles in front of the mirror! Generally speaking though, there is actually relevance, the problem is we often forget to articulate it to our audience.
I don’t mean you should start reading extracts from 50 Shades of Grey in your next presentation (although I’d love to be a fly on the wall to see the faces of the audience if you did!). However, what you definitely should do is make it crystal clear for your audience as to why you’re saying what you’re saying. Quite literally point out the WIIFT. For instance, back in the days when I was a buyer, every now and then I’d see a sales presentation where they would put up the ‘About us’ slide, but before I’d be able to silently groan and roll my eyes, the presenter would say something like “The only reason I’m showing you this is to prove that we’ve been around for a very long time. If you work with us, you can be confident that we’re not going anywhere, and that you’ll receive the same excellent level of service that’s kept us in business for the last 70 years”. Now that’s a WIIFT! Never assume your audience will make the connections for themselves, be clear and explicit and it saves them the effort.
So, next time you sit down to write a presentation, just remember to keep asking yourself a very simple question, maybe even have it on a post-it note on your computer (covering the damn animations button perhaps!):
What’s in it for them?