In addition to these grand WIIFYs, there will usually be many smaller WIIFYs . . . more-specific, but still significant, audience benefits that give meaning to each element in your presentation. In fact, every element in your persuasive presentation must be clearly linked to a WIIFY.
There are six key phrases that can trigger a WIIFY. They are designed to remind presenters about the necessity of linking every element of their presentation to a clear audience benefit, or, a WIIFY. When I coach my clients' presentations, if I hear an idea, fact, story, or detail without a clear audience benefit, I interrupt to call out one of these WIIFY triggers:
- "This is important to you because . . . ." (The presenter fills in the blank with a WIIFY.)
- "What does this mean to you?" (The presenter explains with a WIIFY.)
- "Why am I telling you this?" (The presenter explains.)
- "Who cares?" ("You should care, because . . . .")
- "So what?" ("Here's what . . . .")
- "And . . . ?" ("Here's the WIIFY . . . .")
Get to know these WIIFY triggers. Use them on yourself the next time you're preparing a presentation, as reminders to link every element to a WIIFY. (You might want to copy this list from Appendix B, "Presentation Checklists," and tack it on the wall for continual inspiration.) When you work on a presentation as part of a team, use these triggers on your colleagues, and encourage them to return the favor. By the tenth time you pull a WIIFY trigger, you may catch a nasty look or two, but the quality of the resulting presentation will make it all worthwhile.
Here's an example of how important it is to constantly translate your ideas into WIIFY terms. Jim Bixby was the CEO of Brooktree, a company that made and sold custom-designed integrated circuits used by electronics manufacturers. (The company was later acquired by Conexant Systems, Inc.) In preparation for Brooktree's IPO, Jim rehearsed his road show with me. I role-played a money manager at Fidelity, considering whether our mutual fund might invest in Brooktree. During the product portion of Jim's presentation, he held up a large, thick manual and said, "This is our product catalog. No other company in the industry has as many products in its catalog as we do in ours."
Jim set down the catalog and was about to move on to the next topic when I raised my hand and fired off a WIIFY trigger. "Time out!" I said. "You say you have the biggest product catalog. Why should I care about the size of your catalog?"
With barely a pause, Jim raised the catalog again and replied, "With this depth of product, we protect our revenue stream against cyclical variations."
The lights went on. This was an immensely important factor in the company's financial strength, yet one that could easily have passed unnoticed, simply because Jim had forgotten to ask himself, "What's the WIIFY?" Always find and state your WIIFY!
In any presentation, before you make any statement about yourself, your company, your story, or the products or services you offer, stop and ask yourself: "What's the WIIFY? What benefit does this offer my listener?" If there is none, it's a detail that may be of interest to you and your colleagues (a feature), but one that has no significance to your audience. But if there is a benefit, be sure you explain it, clearly, explicitly, and with emphasis, just as Jim did when I pulled the WIIFY trigger on him.
At this point, you may want to protest, "Wait a minute. My audiences aren't stupid. They can figure out the benefits of whatever I mention. They might even feel insulted if I spell it all out for them!"
This is not necessarily true. Remember the Five Cardinal Sins. One is lack of a clear benefit. An essential truth about Audience Advocacy is that most businesspeople today are overloaded with information, with commitments, with responsibilities. When you make your presentation, you may have your audience's undivided attention . . . but not necessarily. Even if it takes them just a few seconds to connect the dots between the feature you describe and the implied benefit, by the time they catch up, you will have moved on to your next point, and they probably won't have time to absorb the benefit . . . or the next point. You'll have lost your audience, perhaps permanently.
By stating the WIIFY, you seize an opportunity. Although your audience members are eminently capable of realizing the WIIFY on their own, when you state it for them, you lead them toward a conclusion . . . your Point B. In doing this, you manage their minds, you persuade them, and you instill confidence in your story, your presentation, and yourself. Plus, you accomplish something else. The audience may have just gotten to the Aha! themselves, a moment before you stated the WIIFY. By articulating it, you win their agreement. They react with nods, thinking to themselves, "Of course! I've never heard it put so succinctly and clearly!" Effective Management.
This is a variation on the Features/Benefits distinction. When presenting to potential investors, a CEO may explain the best features of a leading product: "We've built a better mousetrap." But it's not the quality of the mousetrap in itself that the investors care about; it's the size of the market. The effective CEO presenter will then promptly move on to state the benefit to investors: ". . . and the world is beating a path to our doorstep." There is a huge market for mousetraps. When the WIIFY is right, everybody wins.
In fact, the power of the WIIFY even applies in our personal lives. Consider this example:
Debbie runs a small but growing catering business. In the past, she has managed to keep most of her weekends largely free of work, which her husband, Rich, thoroughly appreciates. Now, however, she's received the proverbial "offer she can't refuse": a request to cater a series of receptions at the local art museum that will keep her busy on weekends throughout the fall and winter. It will be quite lucrative as well as prestigious, but Debbie has to convince Rich to support her in this endeavor. Over dinner one evening, Debbie paints an eloquent word picture of how catering the receptions will put her company on the map, but she doesn't tell Rich how he'll benefit.
To win Rich's support, Debbie should say something like this: "This contract could boost my profits from the catering business next year by over 50 percent. It'll be enough to let me hire an assistant manager who can run the business for three weeks next summer . . . while we take that European tour we've always dreamed about."
In this example, Debbie had to do more than simply reframe the idea to make the WIIFY clear. She also had to adjust her plans so that Rich will receive a definite personal benefit. One of the advantages of crafting a well-conceived WIIFY is that if you haven't previously shaped your proposition to be a true win/win deal with benefits for everybody, then presenting the WIIFY will impel you to do just that. Improving your presentation can also help to improve the underlying substance.
The Duchess of Windsor famously once said: "You can never be too thin or too rich." I amend her adage with ". . . or offer too many WIIFYs."