Simon Sinek published his best-selling book ‘Start with Why in 2009. Since then, his message has been a runaway success. He’s graced the stages of TED, is repeatedly quoted across business social media, and he’s now fronting a successful channel on YouTube.
Simon’s success won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has come across his work – he writes with passion and is a powerful presenter. But perhaps the key reason for his success is laser focus on cracking the code of clear business communication – it’s about starting with ‘why’.
The simplicity of this statement belies the challenges ahead. Getting to the core of what makes a business tick and, more importantly, its reason to exist is far from straightforward. In this TED talk, he demonstrates the power of ‘why’ using Apple.
Now, anybody that owns an Apple product will be aware of their reputation – it’s built on a sense of innovation, of thinking beyond the features and functions of a tool and creating things of beauty that inspire their users. This is Apple’s corporate ‘why’, and, yes, it’s exciting, sexy and possesses all the ingredients to get a business communicator hot under the collar.
So far, so good.
Where things get a little fuzzy is when Simon’s corporate ‘why’ messaging is applied to the very specific lens we view business presentations through. My concern comes from an indefatigable fact – great presentations are very, very closely defined engagements with a very, very closely defined audience. Setting out your stall from a company culture perspective – your corporate ‘why’ – doesn’t work.
For example, let's return to Apple changing the way that people consider their tech tools. The benefit that a presentation audience is looking for may not be quite as lofty and exciting as ‘Think Differently’. Instead, they may simply be looking for a computer to run graphics software i.e. a good fit for Apple’s tech. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting that the corporate ‘why’ doesn’t deliver value or that it shouldn't influence the story however it shouldn't be the ‘why’ that the story is built around. The presentation ‘why’ needs to be audience centric, not company centric.
- What is it that that audience wants to hear?
- What is the shift that they have turned up to that presentation for?
Let’s get one thing clear...
the presentation ‘why’ is about how you can add value and drive a call to action from that audience.
Your corporate ‘why’ is a loftier message which, while adding value and credibility to your message, should never be the central tenet of an audience centric presentation.
THE ‘WHY’ PRESENTATION STORY STRUCTURE
The concept of ‘start with the company vision to spark a conversation’ is an anathema to a great presentation story structure. Focus your time on building a message that resonates with your audience – one that makes them understand the value that you can bring directly to them.
If they have a problem, how are you uniquely placed to solve that problem? That’s your presentation ‘why’.
Taking a ‘start with why’, especially a ‘corporate why’, approach to presentation storytelling is a surefire way to disengage the most important stakeholder in any presentation – your audience. Story structures like ‘Audience Pathway’ and ‘Key Message Headline’ pull upon the ‘why’, but always place the audience at the core of the presentation. They lead with the issues most important to the audience and leave the solution (including the ‘why’) until later on.
Do not take the book title - ‘Start with Why’ – as a story structure direction from Simon Sinek! To do so would fly in the face of everything his excellent book is trying to achieve.
THANK YOU, SIMON
The content team here at Eyeful are huge fans of Simon Sinek. He not only seems to be an interesting and knowledgeable chap, but also has that unmistakable glint of his eye of someone who is frightfully intelligent and enjoys shaking things up. Business communication, especially presentations, need people thinking differently.
The challenge we now face is ensuring presenters understand and apply his thinking correctly and not fall into the trap of jumping to wrong assumptions based on a three-word book title.
What are your thoughts? How have you used Simon Sinek’s work to improve your own presentations? Let us know…