The So What Strategy

‘So what?’

At the end of a presentation business leaders regularly ask one, single question: ‘So what?’ It’s the most uncomfortable question in business.

They ask because they want to know why the ideas in your presentation should matter to them and to the business, and they want to know in one simple statement. You might have spent countless hours, days and weeks preparing, but they want a succinct answer that summarises everything for them in an instant. And you want the earth to open up and swallow you because you don’t know how to answer this question succinctly.

‘So what?’

If you don’t answer this question well, all of your work can be for nothing. Early in our careers, we were both on the receiving end of this question and not ready to answer it. Those memories are some of our most crushing, yet also our most instructive.

What’s the solution? To avoid the embarrassment and frustration of not being able to answer that one simple question, you must state the ‘So what’ clearly and unambiguously at the beginning of your communication and then make the case to support it, rather than trying to tie everything together at the end when your audience may have lost focus or interest.

That sounds simple, but there is a secret to doing this well – it’s what we call ‘storylining’. A business storyline is a simple map of ideas arranged into a logical order and hierarchy. It can be used to make a complex business case or structure a simple email, for a presentation or a speech, for a meeting or a workshop, and there are different storylines to use in different circumstances.

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