The Key to Attention and Engagement

Ollie's needs are simple, yours might not be

Ollie’s needs are simple, yours might not be

What is the secret of getting a person’s attention? Why do some people seem to be able to get anyone to take their call, while other people seem cursed with obscurity?

I have been asked this question twice, recently. I’m always uncomfortable when I have multiple answers, none of them satisfactory. So I mulled over the problem and think I have the right answer. Not only is it the answer to getting someone else’s attention, but also your own motivation too.

Want to know what my solution is?

The answer is to always focus on the WIIFM.

What’s In It For Me?

What is YOUR motivation?

  • What outcome are you looking for?
  • Before you reach out to someone, before you start a project, before you buy new tools, you need to know what your intention is.
  • What do you hope to achieve?
  • What problem do you hope to solve?

Finding it a struggle to write? Ask yourself why you started and what would make it easier for you. November is a good month to get back in the writing groove, it helped me. This blog has been neglected over the last couple of years because I had to take a mental health break from regularly updating it. My motivation to write couldn’t compete with some of the negatives of keeping the blog going. Instead I channeled my energy into work and other endeavours. I only started writing again when I found ways to help deal with my anxiety and found support from other people to push past the negative responses and try to focus on the nice ones.

Talking about writing … 

Rafal and I are writing about creating designs that grow your business, even if you are non-designer. Check it out at Hack Your Design.


In analysis paralysis? Ask yourself where the friction is coming from. Is it fear or not understanding the path you are on? Is it the paradox of choice? After I started writing at Maker Hacks a bunch of people have asked me which 3D printer they should buy, or what Christmas gift ideas I have for kids. My answer is always a question, what do you hope the purchase will do for you (or them)? If you can’t answer, then any suggestion is going to have a good chance of missing the mark. How can you break the challenges down into more manageable chunks?

Therapy and mental palate cleanser. The WIIFM doesn’t have to be business or finance related. My hobbies are an escape from work stress. A couple of people have noticed that I post 3D printed doodads and electronic gizmos at times that coincide with particularly crummy stress days. It’s important to have a creative outlet or six for when you need to think about anything other than what freaks you out.

In all the examples it comes down to knowing what will pull you through to the other side, and maybe removing some obstacles. For example, to help me with my struggles with writing this blog, having someone else read the unsubscribes and the nastier comments was a big part of the solution. If they are deleted before I see them then they can’t get me down. That leaves me clear to do what I love the most, teach people what I know.

What’s In It For Them?

Once you have been through the exercise above, it makes it easier to put yourself in the other person’s position.

Empathy is paramount.

Asking for a favour? Why should they help you? Altruism or is there a win-win to be had?

Selling something? What outcome do you bring about? What goal does it help them achieve? What pain does it cure?

Writing an article? Put the benefit in the headline!

Need opt-ins? Instead of asking people to subscribe … Tell them what they will get in return for signing up 🙂

Bottom Line

The more you understand your motivation, the more motivated you will be, and the more you will stick through the hard parts and get to the other side.

The more you understand the other person’s wants and needs, the more you can be in sync with them, and the more likely both parties will get what they want.

Start with empathy, and discover the WIIFM, and you will unlock every negotiation, even if the negotiation is with yourself.