Starting With “Why?”


While reading Resonate for the millionth time, I was excited to see on page 180 that Nancy Duarte believes presentations should start with why.  This is an idea Simon Sinek talks about in his book Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action.  And I love the idea.  Chiara Ojeda put together this infographic on Sinek’s “Golden Circle,” so to learn more about Sinek, definitely check it out here.

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Why start a presentation with why?  Sinek explains that if an audience doesn’t know why, the “what” and “how” don’t matter.  Duarte breaks it down a little further in Resonate.  She says starting and closing with why balances analysis with emotion because it gives the audience an emotional connection or tie to your topic.  Starting with why gets to the heart of the issue.

Similarly, Sinek argues that businesses that start with why are more successful and cites Apple as an example.  Richard Foster writes, “Peeling back the hard exterior of a business to reveal what is beating at its heart often reveals some surprising insights” (Source).  Consider a presentation.  Explaining the heart, the point, the core of that presentation at the beginning gives the audience the value from the beginning.

Garr Reynolds talks about this in his blog post “The importance of starting from why.”  Reynolds argues, “We rarely spend time thinking deeply about the why. Why are we doing this? Why does it matter? Why is it important (or not)? What is the meaning in the whole scheme of things? Part of the reason we suffer in our professional, academic, and even personal lives is we do not spend enough time first with the Why. How could your work (including presentations) and your life in general be improved if you spent more time first thinking deeply about Why?” (Source).

The next time you are creating a presentation, don’t start with what.  Start instead with why.


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