- Next trainer development cohort 23rd - 27th September 2024

The 3-step hack to hold people’s interest

11th February, 2024

The 3-step hack to hold people’s interest

How many times have you sat through a webinar, waded through a 300-word company update or endured a 2-hour meeting, only to think at the end:  




If we don’t perceive value in something, it can get our backs up, fast.


We hate our precious time being squandered by other people.


But sometimes we can be guilty of wasting people’s time too.  


Sometimes we share information that’s important to us, but not necessarily to our audience.    


The telltale signs?


People’s attention wanders on Teams as they cheekily check their emails.   


Phones slide out under the table in meetings when we’re speaking.


We have to chase for replies to our emails – over and over.  


So how can we avoid straying off-topic? 


How do we make sure everything we write or say engages our audience?


Well, I love this simple hack from Matt Abrahams, a lecturer in organisational behaviour at Stanford Graduate School of Business.  


(He also hosts the excellent Think Fast, Talk Smart: The Podcast - highly recommend giving it a listen.)


Abrahams recommends his ‘What, So What, Now What’ formula to help us communicate more effectively:  


What – what’s your starting point/the situation?  


So what – why should your audience care?


Now what – what’s your call-to-action/next step?


It’s memorable, easy to use and you can apply it to different scenarios, from emails to presentations, from pitches to reports.


It’s also a great shortcut to help you structure your thoughts and get your audience from A to B.


For example, if you were pitching a new process to your manager, you could use it like this:


What: There’s a new piece of software that can help streamline our client contracts


So what: I estimate it’ll save the team around 3 hours each week


Now what: Let’s sign up for the free one-month trial and pilot it with the team


Try the ‘What, So What, Now What’ formula in your next meeting/email/pitch – let me know how you get on! 

University of Cambridge


- Next trainer development cohort 23rd - 27th September 2024

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