At the Table with Jen

What's the "So What?"

What's the "so what?"

So what does that mean?

When I was in the corporate world, I led many high level visibility projects, including employee recognition events and company trade shows.

And for each of these events, I’d ask what was the “so what?”

To put it another way, if I were to tell my boss or someone who might be expected to attend this event about it, and if they answered “So what – why do I care or want to be there?” I wanted to be able to answer it.

So – what IS the so what?

It’s the why behind the event or project. It’s the reason the event or project is important to do and in some cases, the reason it is appropriate at that time.

It’s the reason why someone wants to be there – not has to because their boss is expecting them to attend. It’s the reason why one project takes priority over another project.

The “so what” answers the question “What’s in it for me?”

It’s the benefits – or the solution - to a problem.

Let’s use hosting an in-person event as an example to break this down.

One company where I worked had a huge enough footprint that many times you needed to use your car or a company car to travel to a meeting that was 15 minutes away - one way.

So think about it – if you have to schedule 15 minutes of travel – to and from – that’s actually 30 minutes of travel just to attend an event or meeting.

On top of that, you’ll need to allow for time to be there, which would probably be an hour or so – that’s 90 minutes that you are saying “yes” to that meeting and ‘no’ to something else.

So from an attendee’s perspective, are you clear what you’re saying yes to when you make the decision to go to this event? Are the benefits of spending your time that way worth it to you?

And if you’re the host or organizer of the in-person event, are you clear on the benefits this event will create as outcomes for the attendees?

Gain Clarity

Now let’s talk about how to ensure you have clarity around this event and what its “so what” is. By doing this, you can confidently make a decision that will support your needs no matter if you’re an attendee or the host.

If you are coming from the perspective of the organizer, there are a few things you can do to help your event or project be successful:

  1. Get clear on why this is so important to do
  2. Get clear on who it’s really for
  3. Get clear on how they should feel as a result of being there – that feeling is an emotion that creates the desire to want to do something
  4. Get clear on what next step or action you’d like them to take as a result of being there

All of these actions will help you create an event or project that has movement.

Answering these questions will also help potential attendees to know if the event is really appropriate for them, and if it is, what’s in it for them, so that they WANT to be there and make the time to attend and engage.

Get to the Heart for Yourself

If your event or project is worth doing, then it’s worth figuring out what the “so what” is.

And two easy ways to get to the heart of this for yourself is to

  1. Write it out what you believe the “so what” is, then see if you can dig deeper for another answer and put that down. Keep going a few times to get to the real reason.
  2. Talk it out with someone and have them push you. Give them permission to keep asking you “so what”, so that you have to provide answers that make them want to head nod in agreement as that’s the real reason.

So many times these conversations can be challenging because we might run into pushback as we’re getting clear on what is the “so what”. If that happens, stop and shift your perspective about pushback, and decide that – even if it’s frustrating – it’s only helping you get clearer on your vision and become a better communicator and a more confident leader.

Final Thoughts

When you’re clear on the “so what”, your work in support of that event or project will have purpose and even more traction.

You’ll know how it ties back into the business, so that it makes sense to do and not because just seems like a good idea or because it’s on a performance agreement. You’ll feel excited about spending time on the project because it’s worth it to have said “Yes”.

You’ll be better able to communicate it to your team and ensure they have a clear understanding of your vision – from idea through outcome.


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