Presentations are hard. The challenge comes from two sides: You have too little knowledge and it's difficult to have the content (or the confidence!) to engage a wise audience, yet you have too much knowledge and it's easy to get lost in the minutiae, overwhelming your audience in the process. After being involved with multiple TED Talks, I have found that focusing on one, simple message is essential.

It's the reason why Leslie Belknap's brilliant advice resonates with me. The Senior Content Strategist for Ethos3 and leadership at TEDxNashville, Belknap recent shared a smart, efficient way to organize your next talk.

She calls it:

  1. What?
  2. So What?
  3. Now What?

It breaks down your talk into three steps: What are you talking about, why does it matter, and what do you want me to do with this information?

Taking inspiration from WIIFM [What's in it for me?], my personal mantra - and one you should also keep in mind when creating presentations -- is the question, So what? Every time I create a slide or write a blog post, I return to my mantra and ask, So what?, which forces me to question why that idea is important for my audience. Is it entertaining, informative, inspiring, or is it simply fluff?

When we are informed on the subject, our biggest danger is using the talk as a platform to show how much we know. Our focus should be one of servitude: How can the audience walk away from my talk as a better group of people? The What? So What? Now What? mantra captures this idea.

  • Reduce
  • Focus
  • Structure

It's worth checking out her full blog post on the subject. It reminds me of my own TED Talk trifecta I talked about recently:

  • Practice
  • Narrow
  • Specialize


In looking back, my first TED Talk applied Belknap's principles - although I obviously didn't realize it at the time!

How will the What? So What? Now What? structure inform your next presentation?