Explain the “why” before the “how” in your presentation

why are you here and not anywhere else?

There are lots of famous and charismatic pubic speakers, both legends and emerging leaders. One of the more modern public speaking experts is the late Steve Jobs, the former CEO of Apple.  Jobs knew how to entertain and deliver a presentation that would leave audience members wanting more.  Jobs focused on explaining the “why” before the “how.”  We will primarily focus on company and product pitches in this article, but the strategy can be applied to every presentation type.

Why should the audience members care?  That is the single most important question to address in a presentation.  It does not matter what you are discussing in a presentation, but if you do not answer this question, you will fail completely in having your message retained by the audience after they leave the event.  Focusing during a presentation or conference can be challenging for people of all ages.  If you simply list off buzzwords such as innovative, beautiful, advanced, etc., then you will lose the attention of your audience members.

Be direct

There is a reason WHY you work in the field that you chose, and there is a reason WHY your company created a new product. Instead of opening with an explanation of all of the product’s cool features and its unique design, simply cut to the point and tell them how this product will benefit them.  Be direct and describe the “why” in a simple, easily understood way.

You should know how the product would benefit the people in the room, and the purpose for which the product was created.  Don’t make the audience think hypothetically and guess if it will really help them or not. Simply tell them the solutions that your product will provide.  If you are pitching your product to an audience of people not working in your industry, it might be a bit more challenging for them to find a reason to pay attention.  This is the perfect reason for you as a speaker to find that connection; because sharing that connection will completely change the reaction of your audience to your presentation.

Set them up

Once you grab their attention, then you can unveil the details of how your product works.   They should be intrigued before you go into the details.  If you open with all the technicalities, even experts in the field will be less susceptible to retaining the information.  Reveal the ending first, the solution, and then back it up with supporting comments and descriptions.

Subtle Reminders

As suggested, you should deliver the “why” before the “how,” but then you should repeat the “why” several times during your presentation. If you are presenting for longer than 15 minutes, it can be helpful to remind your audience periodically why they should stay engaged in your speech.  Make sure to state the benefit at the beginning and the end so the audience is more likely to walk out the door remembering your words.


Reference: Gallo, C.  The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010. Print.

Image courtesy of Quinn Dombrowski


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Erica Martin

Business Developer at Beekast

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1 Response

  1. Isa says:

    I’d vetrnue that this article has saved me more time than any other.

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