Your Presentation Needs This Strategy To Succeed

There is one important strategy that your presentation must have in order to succeed.

Without it, you are guaranteed a fail. Without it, you will not connect with your audience. Without it, your words will fall on deaf ears.

Adults learn on a “need-to-know” basis! You have to explain why the listener needs-to-know your information.

Solve My Current Problems Now

Adults are problem-centric. They come to your presentation looking for an answer to their problem.

In most cases, they don’t want content just for the sake of learning something new. They don’t want information that will be relevant to them a year from now. They don’t want facts and figures that don’t have any meaning. They don’t want data that won’t help them with the challenges they face today.

They have a problem that they are looking for a solution now.

When adults feel they need-to-know, they will listen. When they feel your information will help them with their immediate problems, they will give you their attention. When the content you are sharing helps them just in time, they will attend.

Adults learn on a “need-to-know” basis.

Your challenge as a presenter is taking the time to explain the need-to-know.

Creating The Need-To-Know Incentive

Why should an audience listen to your presentation?

Too many presenters just jump into their topic right from the start. They never take the time to explain its relevance.

As a presenter, your challenge is to create the “need-to-know” incentive so that the audience will believe they need to embrace your presentation.

Psychologists tell us that humans perceive information to be relevant when it elicits fear, hope or pleasure. Presenters must walk a tightrope balancing act of creating a scenario where the listener will want to avoid danger or harm as well as receive pleasure and be able to improve.

Ultimately, as a presenter, you need to explain the why before you ever get to the what.

When People Will Change

People will only change when the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of change. It is only when the hurt is so great that if they don’t change, they will fail, that an audience will think about changing.

Then they have to know enough about how to change. They also have to care enough to want to change.

So your presentation must not only inform people why they need-to-know the information, you must light a fire under them to ignite the change.

The audience must feel that it’s urgent to listen and act on what you’re sharing. If not, the information is lost in their filters.

So you as a presenter, must be able to warn them of harm if they don’t act. Cast a vision of what could be if they do act. Share the benefits of their action. Equip them to know how to act.

And all of this must be based on the listener’s need-to-know! And it must be done at the beginning of your presentation.

Note: This same strategy applies to selecting conference content and speakers. The content should be based on attendees’ need-to-know!

Why do so many people need speakers to light a fire underneath them to get them motivated to listen and learn? What are the barriers to applying a “need-to-know” incentive to your presentation?

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  1. Frank Kenny says:

    Great post. I know that I sit forward in my seat when an article, or a presentation, has the potential to directly improve my life. Then I am all ears.

    Your post relates to copywriting skills too. Any marketing piece coming across my “desk” needs to grab my attention on why it is important to me NOW. Then I will scan for direct benefits.

    So much of life really comes down to “What’s in it for me?”


    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Yes, WIIFM (What’s in it for me) is critical for speakers today. If they don’t convince the audience WIIFM, then they can waste their time presenting.

      Thanks for reading and commenting too.

      Thanks for sharing the additional information from Guy Kawasaki. We appreciate it.

  2. Ian Adams says:

    I was reading a related post recently about presentations by Guy Kawasaki ( ). Some great guidelines that compliment your message. A 10/20/30 rule: 10 slides because a normal human being cannot comprehend more than ten concepts in a meeting. 20 minutes because it’s harder to be more concise than verbose. 30 point font because if you can’t convey your message with fewer words it’s as a result of lacking focus or not knowing what you’re talking about.

    Of course this doesn’t pertain to all presentation, particularly since he refers to business pitches, but found it to be a good benchmark.

  3. Great post Jeff! Definitely something to keep in mind (“problem-centric”).

  4. Nancy Largay says:

    One of the most important things I do when planning for a speech is to ask the organizer who has pre-registered for my session. In other words, who is showing interest so I can tailor my presentation to the audience. It’s like customizing your resume to the job. I am amazed at how many people are surprised when I ask for the list. It seems so logical to me.

    I’m presenting next week at SISO…maybe I’ll test some of the suggested concepts. I’m always up for a challenge to keep the audience engaged.

  5. Russell says:

    ‘@Nancy Largay. Great comment! Totally agree. If you don’t know your audience, then how can you talk to them.

    @Jeff. Nice article. You hit the nail on the head.

  6. Thanks, Jeff – Your comment is really hitting home with me today. I am working with several people who are presenting their “stuff” at a global meeting I’ll be facilitating in a few short weeks…and they all start out telling me what they want to tell the audience. I listen patiently, and then I ask, “So what do THEY want to know about this topic?” At this point, there is some flustered ums and ahs – and then we talk about the relevance of the topic to the audience. Usually, the presentation changes dramatically.
    The other thing that I would add is to ask, “What’s do you want them to DO with the information?” And to make a call to action throughout the presentation – and especially at the end.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting too. We greatly appreciate it.

      Here’s a third question that is a twist on your last one. “What will the audience do during the presentation?” If the speaker responds with “set ‘n get” then the presentation will have little value. We want them to do something during the presentation besides sit and listen. Then add your question of what will they do with the information after the presentation.”

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