When Public Speaking Focus on Benefits, Not Features by Peter Dhu

One of the keys to being more influential, when you speak in public is to share your message in a way that highlights the benefits to your audience or your clients. When you are asking people to change, or to accept a new way of thinking, or to try something different, what are the benefits for them.

A common mistake that people make is to highlight and talk about the features of what they are proposing. It is a list of capabilities and capacities and specifications, and I often say when I hear these lists, “so what”. Why do I care. And if I can’t perceive any benefits to me, or a don’t see a solution to a problem that I have, and there is nothing in it for me, then I will probably zone out and think “so what, why should I care”.

This principle can be illustrated by this example that I often use in my workshops. If I send you down to the local hardware store and ask you to buy me a 5 cm, tungsten tip, flat head nail, what have you just brought me? The usual reply is a 5cm, tungsten tip, flathead nail. And these are indeed the features of this item. In fact, what you have just brought me is the ability to finally hang the piece of art that has been sitting in my loungeroom for 3 months and my wife has been angry and nagging me to hang it up. You have just brought me piece of mind and possibly saved my marriage. Thank you.

Another classic example that illustrates the difference between and the importance of benefits over features is the iPod and MP3 player launch. These occurred roughly around the same time in history.

First the MP3 player 

Bill Gates announced to much fanfare the latest MP3 player. It comes in 4 colours, has 250 Mb of memory, has a battery life of 7 hours, and holds 2000 songs. (Please note, not the exact words)

Second The iPod

Steve Jobs announced the iPod. Your entire music library, in your pocket, anywhere, anytime.

Fundamentally these are the same device, but which one sounds more appealing or gives you a clear outline of the benefits of having one. Most people recognise that Steve Jobs focused on the benefits, while Bill Gates focused more on the features.

The key difference in focusing your message on the benefits, is that the benefits describe why your message, or idea, or proposal, or new way of thinking matter and how they help the target audience. Public speaking is all about your audience and focusing on benefits helps your audience see the “what’s in it for them” and they are more likely to be receptive of your idea and accept your message.

When crafting a message and preparing a presentation, focus on the benefits, rather than the features, and you are more likely to have impact on your audience.

Improve your public speaking and presentation skills by joining my Winning Presentation Skills workshop in Bendigo on 18 July. The workshop will prepare you to present confidently and effectively, ensuring that you have maximum impact and that your message is heard and understood.

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