Communication: How (mechanics) vs Why (objectives)

I recently was listening to a technical presentation and as I was listening I had a profound thought.  I hope I communicate it well below.  Note: the person who did the presentation did a great job, but the way my mind works is it takes a concept and then thinks about how my readers can apply it to their job search, career management and networking 🙂

Technology presentations can be very technical and mechanical.  They can talk in acronyms and jargon which excites people who get it and confuses the rest.

When talking about the HOW of technology we (programmers/technologists, even project managers) can get so excited about the cloud, SSL, javascript, client-side this and server-side that, the UI and the GUI and Apache and markup languages and use cases…

That is the HOW… that is the mechanics.  To the right audience this is the right message.

But many times our audience doesn’t want, and can’t handle, the HOW.  They need the WHY.

If the audience wants the WHY, they need to understand the big picture, the reason behind the project, the objectives, and probably most important, the WIIFM.

Have you heard of WIIFM?

Say that out loud. Shout it.  It’s fun to yell… it sounds something like this: whiffem!

The WIFFM is the What’s In It For Me.

When you present you must think about your audience.  If your audience will get lost in technology or jargon, don’t use it.  They might not CARE about the HOW and only care about the WHY, or the WIIFM.

There’s another way to say all this.  Have you ever heard you need to communicate the benefit, not the features?  That is a common phrase/concept amongst salespeople, who really get excited about features but lose the customer who wants to know about the benefits.

This applies to every one of you.  I know you are proud of your features, but many times that is the HOW.  Think about your audience (networking, interviewing, friends/family who can be your evangelists) and think about the WIIFM, and the WHY.


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