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Now What? Applying the Lessons You’ve Learned

Many conference organizers have detailed instructions for their speakers. It makes sense since often those conferences will have a mix of professional speakers and members of their organization who have never done presentations like this.

On more than one occasion I have seen instructions to, “ask the attendees to write down one or two things they are going to do because of your session.”


You want your audience to not only learn what you’re teaching, you want them to apply it to their own business. When you ask them to write it down, you increase the chances of them actually taking action. In fact, it was this very request back in June 2007 that led me to this new career as a professional speaker.

I was listening to a presentation. I knew what the speaker was trying to say, but she was having a tough time getting her (incredibly good) idea across. At the end she asked us to write down one thing we were going to do.

I wrote, “I’m going to teach this class next year.” And I did.

Found this little gem from June 2007 in my “Notes from Workshops” file

Yesterday I wrapped up a five-week Retail Success Academy class with business owners in Clare, MI. The final assignment of the class was for every student to stand up and do a brief presentation on the one action they are going to take first because of the class including what they are going to do, why they are going to do it, and what they expect to happen.

It always becomes my favorite moment in the program.

I have taught you the What? So What? Now What? methodology of learning.

  • What = The actions you take
  • So What = The lessons you learn from those actions
  • Now What = The application of the lessons to everything else

This writing down or presenting on the one thing you’re going to do because of the presentation is the Now What. It is the most critical part of any presentation because it helps your audience formulate their thoughts and find the actions that will help them.

It also helps you, the presenter, know if your audience got what you were trying to teach. If during Q&A all the questions are about the information you presented or not fully understanding how it all works, you failed as a presenter to get your point across. If all the questions are about how to apply the lessons to their own unique situation, then you nailed it.

I tell you this because as the manager or owner of a small business you are constantly in the position to teach others. Listen carefully to the questions your staff have after a staff meeting. If they are asking What? or So What? questions, you need to start over and find a new way to teach the material. if they are asking Now What? questions, then you know you are on the right track. If they are already answering the Now What? questions for themselves, then you know you’ve hit it out of the park.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS This applies to any type of business. If you’re a manufacturer and you’ve introduced a new product or program, the questions you get from your customers tell you a lot about how well you’ve explained the product or program. Heck, this even applies to salespeople selling direct to the consumer. You want to get your customers to visualize owning the product. “How are you going to use that?” is a great Now What? question to get them to take ownership.

PPS The best part about the presentations by the Retail Success Academy grads yesterday was they all chose something different and something was chosen from each of the five major lessons of the Academy. That’s when you know, as a presenter, you’re on the right track.