Closing Speaker? Make Being the Last of the Day Work for You!Category:Preparation,Audience
Being the last speaker at an event can be daunting for speakers. But there are actually some big opportunities. Make being the last speaker work for you!
Being the last speaker at an event can be daunting for speakers. But there are actually some big opportunities. Make being the last speaker work for you!
Every speaker wants a good ‘connection’ with the audience. In some cases, that can be quite hard. Not all audiences are the same. And some audiences, you have to ‘convince’. Wouldn’t it be great if your audience would listen engaged to every word you had to say? It’s possible.
There are a few ways to connect with your audience. Some are easy. And your audience will feel closer to you, without you being too obvious about it.
Many speakers are very self-focused when they are on stage. Most of the time, this is not intentional. But speakers want to do a good job. So they focus on the job they feel is most important: the words and the slides.
If you focus only there, you will lose the attention of the audience. Because there is no connection.
A good speaker has to know what happens in the room, at all times. Are people paying attention, are they bored, are they engaged? Who is laughing and who isn’t? And who seems to agree or disagree with you?
If you feel the room agrees or doesn’t agree, for example, act on it. Tell them “I see some people disagree, that’s fine, here’s why I feel it is like this…”
The mere fact that you are responding to their movements shows you care. And caring means connecting.
It’s common advice for speakers: “Look to all parts of the room and focus on some people”. Great advice, but you need to be careful with this. If you ‘glance’ over the audience too much, they will feel neglected. They feel you don’t ‘see’ them.
What you want is a real connection. This means looking people in the eye. In fact, look at some people a bit longer. Not too long, that gets creepy, but long enough to get the connection. Get a smile even. It will bring you closer. Look at them, really connect with your audience.
Smiling is one of the most underestimated parts of public speaking. If you want to connect, the audience must feel you like them. And if you are not smiling, how will they ever feel you like them?
Once you show you are enjoying yourself on stage, the audience will become part of that. And they will feel closer to you.
How to make people smile? Sometimes you can do that with jokes. Being funny does help. If you can make the audience smile, they will feel closer to you.
Now there is a danger here. If your joke backfires, you could lose all the connection. So think about jokes. Don’t offend people. Don’t make fun of specific groups. Be lighthearted and funny. The best person to joke about is you.
Which brings me to a very important part of your presentation. You have to make any presentation you do personal. People bond with you, not with the presentation. So as soon as you can make part of the presentation personal, you will get closer to the audience.
This doesn’t mean you have to keep telling stories about yourself or your kids all the time. It does mean, you want to connect the content of the presentation to your personality. Show the connection between you and what you are trying to get across. People will like you, and your talk, better.
If you talk about stuff that people can’t relate to, you make it hard for them. It can be almost like you are talking to them in a foreign language. How do you feel when you are part of a conversation between two people speaking a language you don’t understand? You feel left out.
You want to avoid people feeling left out. Even when you are talking about difficult topics. You want to sometimes bring it back to basics. The best way of doing that is to refer to things people already know. Sometimes that is an analogy, sometimes it’s going back to something everybody knows.
If you refer to what people know, you give them trust and they will get closer to you.
There are speakers who stand behind a desk. And there are those (like myself) who like to walk around. I prefer the walking way, for several reasons. For one, it’s a way of getting closer to your audience.
By physically getting closer to your audience, you will make them feel closer to you as well. So walk towards them. Make them ‘part’ of your presentation. And it will create a bond.
Finally, a great way to connect with your audience is to compliment them. Tell them how great they are.
There are several parts in the presentation where you can do this. At the start, you can make a compliment about the location, the city that you are in or the company that you are presenting at. During the talk, you can tell them you can see they are a smart audience. “I don’t need to tell you this, you know this”, shows you feel they are smart. And at the end of the talk, you can say you enjoyed their presence.
A compliment can do many things!
As you can see, there are many ways of getting a connection with your audience. The one important thing you have to keep in mind is that it has to be about them. They need to be able to recognise themselves.
The best way of doing that is by telling a story. People love stories. Not only because they are fun, but because it’s part of our DNA. Stories are part of our everyday life. Each day we tell each other stories. Each day we listen to stories.
When we hear a story, we listen better. We remember more. And we trust the source of a story. This is why storytelling is such a powerful tool. And this is why storytelling needs to be part of any type of talk that you do.
But Storytelling isn’t easy. That’s why we created a class for you that shows you exactly how to create a perfect story, over and over again.
I attended an office party the other day at which a few people started debating storytelling. There were a few who didn’t believe in the concept of storytelling at all. Others did believe in it, but didn’t think it was ‘for them’. It struck me how little informed some people seemed to be. Or better said: how presumptuous.
Some people believed storytelling is not important. Which is ok to think, but they thought so for the wrong reasons.
“Let me tell you a story”, that’s how the conversation started. “Hah, a story, are you doing ‘storytelling’?”, said the second person. “Storytelling is a hype!” was the third response. That’s how the conversation started.
Some of the people at the party thought Storytelling was a hype. They thought so because they had heard the term so often.
In a way, they were right. When you hear a term often, it feels like the start of a hype. And when agencies start offering a service related to that ‘buzzword’ as a service, all alarm bells go off. At that point, it has all the signs of becoming a hype.
But is Storytelling a hype? When something is a hype, it will also go away again. It temporarily has the attention.
But ‘storytelling’ isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it will be around longer than many other ‘buzzwords’. Storytelling is part of human DNA. It has always been around. From the stone ages until now. And it will remain part of our lives in the far future.
We’ve been telling stories forever. And we’ve been selling by stories forever. So is it a hype? It probably is. But one that actually makes sense. One that
This argument made one of the people in the conversation, let’s call him Mark, think. He tended to agree but didn’t give in yet.
“Whatever, it might not be a hype, it sure doesn’t work! People want to know what they are buying, they don’t want to hear stories!”
This is an argument that you hear often within businesses. Many businesses aren’t using storytelling yet because they think it doesn’t work. These businesses haven’t looked well enough at how and why people buy.
People don’t buy because a product has the most features, they buy because they feel it fits their needs. And that goes beyond the features. When buying, people listen to friends and families. They read reviews, and they listen to the stories of the salesmen.
Did you ever think about why a salesperson always has a personal experience that happens to feel like yours? Yep, that’s because the story works. You start feeling a connection with the salesperson.
Stories also work because when buying, people want to learn. They want to know everything about the product, the service or anything connected. People’s brains need to learn. And the best way of learning is through stories. Because stories stick.
Mark wasn’t convinced yet.
“Ok, it might work for consumers, but we are a B2B business. B2B is different. Here people want to know about facts!”
Again, this was an argument I had heard before. B2B and B2C seem to be very different, when in fact they aren’t. Like B2C, B2B is also all about people, about emotions. And that is not a made up argument. A Google Research showed that half of the B2B buyers are more likely to buy if they can connect emotionally with a brand. And the best way of getting that connection is by telling stories that show a connection.
The same study also shows that 71% buys because they see a personal value. 68.8% even wants to pay more if they believe in a business.
That is all emotion. That is all personal. And guess how to best get the message of connection across…
Mark started to see he was running out of arguments. But he kept trying.
“Yeah ok, maybe it works somewhere, but not with us! We are in a very specific niche. People don’t listen to stories in our niche. And even if they would, we wouldn’t be able to find or create stories anyway. There are no stories in our niche!”
To be honest, I always get a little bit annoyed when people say this. There is no niche in the world where you cannot find a story. There is no niche in the world where you can’t find a connection with your audience. If that would be so, the niche would not even exist.
When there is a niche, there is a demand. Someone wants that product or service. And if there is a demand, it means the product or service is solving some sort of problem, even if it’s very small. That’s where you can find the stories.
You could see that some people started to think storytelling wasn’t so bad after all. Even Mark. But if you know anything about the human mind, you know that giving in, is the hardest thing to do. Instead, ‘we’ try and change the subject, or at least find a way to make us look good. That’s what happened at the party as well. Mark shifted the topic.
“Well, we don’t do storytelling because it takes too much of our time. We are in the selling business, not the telling business. When you do storytelling you need to find the stories or create them. You need to actually be able to think of stories! Our people can’t do that.”
Granted, good storytelling does take some time. But it doesn’t take that much more time than a regular marketing campaign will take you. Any work takes time. But it’s about choices. And knowing that storytelling is so much more powerful, the choice should be easy.
The good thing about storytelling is also that if you know how it is not so difficult to do. If you analyse stories, you can see that most stories have a similar structure. You need an obstacle, a hero, a beginning, middle and an end.
“Oh, so Storytelling is easy? Anyone can do it?”
Well, yes, anyone can do it. Anyone can create a story. But you want the story to be good. You want the story to have an impact. And for that, you need to know how to fill in the details that create a persuasive story. And no, not anyone can ‘just do that’. If so, anyone would write novels.
Finally, Mark was convinced. He realised Storytelling was a useful way of getting a connection with his audience. He realised his business needed to “get” storytelling. And see it as more than a hype.
“Ok, now I get it. Storytelling is about reaching the human brain. It’s actually a very natural way of connecting with your audience! We should do this. We’re going to allocate time and resources to this. First, our staff will take the class and then we’ll tell stories! We’re in!”
The 2019 Champions League Quarter Finals between Ajax and Juventus and between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur were more than football. They were stories.
We can learn from the stories of two games played in the Champions League: Juventus vs Ajax and Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur.
They follow the same path as any good story follows!
Do you want to be able to create stories like this, without having to step one foot on the pitch? You can! Join the Storytelling Class and start making a real difference!
Getting ready for a workshop, training or presentation is much more than getting your slides done. The mental part of preparing matters a lot.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been giving a lot of advice to speakers who were preparing their decks. Some of them were preparing for a conference. Others were preparing for workshops. And there were even those who were preparing for online courses.
It was a lot of fun to do, and there were some great decks sent in. Of course, there were also quite a few things I could suggest for improvement. There is one thing that kept coming back when analysing the different slide decks: the text.
A lot of speakers still put a lot of text on their slides. Because they want to share as much information as possible. This isn’t always the best approach though. Let me explain why. After that, I will explain how you can handle slides that do have text on them.
Before you go and change your behaviour… Of course, you want to know first, why is having too much text on a slide a bad thing? After all, you are trying to give your audience as much information as possible. Aren’t you helping them?
As well as the intent often is, it isn’t helping them. For a lot of reasons.
Have you ever been to a bar where they had TV’s hanging on the wall? You will have. And you will have experienced that it is hard to keep your eyes off the screen. Even though your conversation partner has something interesting to say. You can’t keep your eyes off it.
The same thing happens with the screen(s) that are behind a speaker. People can’t take their eyes off it. At least, not until their brains have digested what is on the slide.
So what happens to a person when they see a lot of text on a slide? They start reading what is on it. Because they need to digest it. That means their attention will stay on the slide until they’ve read it all.
Now try this: have someone tell you something, while you are trying to read something for the first time. You will either fail to read or fail to listen. You can’t do both.
The same will happen with your audience, they will focus on one thing. And that one thing is going to be the text. Their eyes will be drawn to the screen and will read, and won’t listen to you.
I’m assuming that what you put on your slide is valuable information. Information that will help your audience. Your audience will feel the same way. It must be important because the speaker has put it on there!
When people come to an event or when they are listening to a speech, they want to remember things. And to remember, they will write things down. This means that when you put text on a slide, chances are your audience will write down what’s on your screen.
And you’ve guessed it. When they are writing, it’s hard to listen to you!
Especially when you have quite a bit of information on your slide, it will be hard for people to keep track of what you are saying. Chances are they will still be writing when you click to the next slide. That will mean they won’t hear the first things you are saying on a new topic.
The result is that people are playing catch up all through your presentation. They want to hear everything you say. They want to write down your message and your tips. But let’s put it bluntly: you’re not letting them.
The more text you have on your slides, the more your audience is playing catch up with your words. And that’s not something you want happening!
The question now of course arises, is how to handle the issue of too much text on a slide. And how much text should be on a (Powerpoint) slide anyway? There are a few things that you can do.
The simplest solution, of course, is not to put too much text on a slide. But the truth is that you sometimes do need text. Also, because you sometimes WANT people to write something down. Or to tweet something.
The best way to do that is to use short bites. Short sentences that don’t take too much time to read or write down.
How much? I use the rule of the ‘old tweet’. Meaning around 140 characters. That is enough to digest. It will also make that it will be easier for people to share your quotes, using your name in it as well.
I don’t have much text on my slides. I use a lot of images. Using images prevents them from reading. I use images to represent what I am talking about. They support my words. They help my audience visualise my words.
If you want a good place to find the right images, you can read the article I wrote about where to find high-quality images.
If you do need to share more text, give them time to read. Pause your speech. Tell them they can read the slide if they want. Just don’t talk through it if you don’t have to.
It’s common use to share slides afterwards with audiences. Even though there is discussion about whether or not this is a smart thing to do. Especially when you are using a lot of images, it won’t make much sense to those who haven’t seen your presentation.
When you have a lot of text on your slides, it might be wise to share your slides. When you get to a slide with more text, tell your audience they will get that slide. Tell them they should write down some important words, but they don’t have to copy the entire slide.
Finally, there is the 1-6-6 rule. This rule is very simple. You should include no more than six words per line and no more than six bullet points per slide.
They invented this rule to prevent people from using too much text. Unfortunately, it does the exact opposite. It encourages people to add text, a slide with six bullets and six words each, is still a lot of text! So when you think this rule is the way to go. Go up, and read the post again!
When it comes to text on slides, there is no set number of words or characters you can or cannot use. The essence of it all, is to think about your audience. Understand them. And understand the attention curves. If you understand those, you can help your audience digest what they need to hear.
It’s common advice given to a lot of speakers: practice in front of a mirror. So they can see how they ‘perform’ and improve their body language. It’s a very logical way of thinking. In fact, it’s in the advice of many books and courses. Intended to make you look at yourself in real time and make instant adjustments. But is this the right way of thinking?
I believe it is a completely wrong approach. It can even lead to the exact opposite of what you want to accomplish.
“But wait, what are you saying? Are you saying that the advice others are giving is false?” Well, as with many things, my answer will be: that depends. It depends on how you ‘read’ the advice.
Let’s look at some of the reasoning behind the tip that you should practice in front of a mirror.
This is true, of course, you can see yourself. As I point out below though, it’s not your real self. But the essence of the advice here is good: seeing yourself will make that you can improve yourself. The question is if that has to be a mirror… But I’ll get back to that.
Some say that a mirror will help you look at your audience instead of at your notes. Where I agree that you shouldn’t look at your notes, I doubt that the mirror will have that effect. Eye contact is important. So you have to train yourself to look at different people.
I think this advice comes from the understanding that you need to practice without notes. But there are many better ways of doing that.
So why do I advice against it? There are several reasons you shouldn’t do this.
Even though you see yourself in the mirror, and the reflection is real, this is not reality. Practicing in front of the mirror doesn’t reflect what happens in real life. Because for one, in real life, you don’t see yourself. If you want to practice, you want to get as close as possible to the actual speaking experience. When you see a reflection of yourself, you will act on it right away. Change the way you look. But that is how you look in the mirror, not on stage.
You will not even see how you act on stage because you are focusing on your reflection. What you see is not what you get. This might also mean that you change things that don’t need changing!
When you look in the mirror, and you see something wrong, you will change it. But then the change has happened and you don’t think about it anymore. Where in fact, it’s a habit. So you need to address it over and over. Looking in the mirror fools you into thinking you ‘fixed’ your body language.
When you practice in front of the mirror, you are focusing on how your movement and gestures. You will see every movement that goes wrong. You will see every little thing. Your focus will be on your smallest facial expressions and gestures. This is distracting. Which then leads to too much emphasis on those little things and you will lose the focus on your story.
You want to focus on your story, not your gestures.
Looking at yourself in the mirror when practicing might actually make you nervous. When you look at yourself, you emphasize what goes wrong. You are much more aware of what goes wrong. Therefore increasing the likely hood of it actually going wrong.
If you see things going wrong you will start thinking about these things more and more. And that will make you nervous.
Is it always wrong to practice in front of the mirror? I would say yes in most cases. But, like with everything, there are exceptions. If you practice early enough, it will most likely not make you nervous. And you can do that, but only to practice certain gestures. To see if certain gestures work or not. Otherwise, I would advise against it.
But if it’s something that works for you, do it!
There are two other things you can do that will give you a much better insight into how you are presenting yourself:
Find colleagues or other people to see you talk. They can give you feedback as well. Remember to ask them for specific feedback on your body language and not on your story.
Grab a video camera (or your phone) and record yourself. Position the camera so that it has a broad view of how you move (which show your full body). Watch the recording, write down the two or three biggest things you want to change, and do another practice run.
Just be careful rehearsing in front of the mirror. It might not have the outcome you were hoping for!
Is ‘Storytelling’ a hype? As a marketing strategy, maybe, but only when done wrong. Because stories ARE important. Why are they so important? Because stories are part of our everyday life. Each day we tell each other stories. Each day we listen to stories. Stories are part of our DNA.
When we hear a story, we listen better. We remember more. And we trust the source of a story.
This is why storytelling is such a powerful marketing tool. And this is why storytelling needs to be part of public speaking.
In fact, when you do a talk, treat your talk as a story. Craft it like a story. Your audience will remember you for it, will believe your words and will trust you.
Don’t tell stories because others do. Tell them because it’s part of who we are. Because it’s personal. That’s storytelling done well.
Good storytelling isn’t easy. It’s a lot of work. You need to be prepared. Here are the steps that are important:
We are going in depth on this in our Storytelling Class which is now open to everyone!
When pitching, the prospects you are trying to sell to seem extra critical. It’s hard to persuade them. This is because they are scared of making the wrong choice.
People don’t like making choices. Because making choices mean you can make the wrong choice. And if you make the wrong choice, you will feel regret. Or even worse: you will lose status amongst your peers.
This is why at pitch presentations, the recipients seem extra critical. They are trying to avoid making the wrong choice rather than making the right choice.
You can make them feel at ease more by first acknowledging the fact that the choice they have to make is indeed hard and by telling them stories.
It turns out that when we talk on a lower grade level, more people will understand and love what we say. It’s part of the success of the speeches of Donald Trump.
If you’ve ever wondered why so many people believe every word Donald Trump says, the answer might be simpler than you think. A large part of the reasons lies in the way he talks.
During the 2016 election, research showed that Donald Trump was speaking on a 4th or 5th grade level. That means the level of an 8 year old. Why is that important? Because he kept it simple.
Whether or not he did this on purpose, we don’t know. But the results were great for him. By toning down his language, he was able to reach a much larger group of people. And more important: he was able to persuade them. To make them believe his words and his ideas.
As a speaker, we can learn from this. Because too often, speakers use language that is too difficult for their audience. We have all been guilty of using jargon in our talks. But using difficult language is likely to make your audience fade out. They will stop listening.
When speaking in public. Try to keep it simple. Use words people understand. And if you want or need to use jargon, explain it. You can do that using the ‘Kinda like’ theory.
This theory means you create an analogy. Are you talking about something difficult? Compare it to something everyday. Something everybody will understand: “It’s kind of like riding a bike: hard at first, but you’ll get it.”
Have you ever watched TV shows like ‘Idols’, ‘The Voice’ or ‘Britain’s Got Talent”? These shows are very popular. And for good reason. We love to see others show their often hidden talents.
But next to those that show their talents, there are also many who fail. There’s something interesting about these people. Something that has nothing to do with their (lack of) talent on stage.
When you watch the interviews before their performances, you might notice something. Most of those who fail have something in common: their moms. Broader: their families and friends.
These families all say similar things. “She has always been singing at home and I always get goosebumps!” or “We love hearing him sing in the shower!”. They are proud. Genuinely proud. They are entitled to be.
But they are not always right.
They say these things because they are family. Even though what they say might not be true. Because they don’t want to hurt their loved ones. But some also because see their relatives in a different way. They believe in them. You could say that they are in a bubble. One that will make the performer sound good. Even if they are bad.
To improve as a speaker, you need feedback. I’ve talked about getting feedback before, like in this video.
It’s crucial to get feedback. But not always fun or easy. You will hear things you don’t like.
But if you want to grow, you will need to treat the criticism as a gift. As something that will make you a better speaker.
That means you need to ask for feedback as much as you can.
But don’t ask your mom.
Like with the contestants of the talent shows, your mom, or your boyfriend or girlfriend, brother or sister, or someone else close to you, won’t be honest. They can’t. Granted, there are parents who are the most critical people you will meet. But most aren’t.
You will need to find feedback from those that have a certain expertise. Get it from someone with expertise of the content (someone from your industry). Or from someone who understands what it takes to be on stage.
When asking for the feedback, you need to be ready. Ready for the answer, but also to help those that give the feedback to give you the best answer.
In his book “Confidence 2.0” the author, Rob Yeung, highlights three things that are important when asking for feedback. I agree very much with them. They are:
1. You need to give those you are asking for feedback ‘permission’.
Permission to be honest and negative. Make sure you tell them you want to improve. That it’s ok, in fact even good, to get negative feedback. Because that will help you improve.
2. Anonymous feedback works.
If possible, get people to give written feedback. When they write things down, they will be more honest. And when they write it down, knowing it can’t be traced to them, they will be more honest. Most people are afraid to give criticism. By making it anonymous, you help them be more honest.
3. Thank them for the feedback
Finally, make sure you thank people for their feedback. You will have the urge to reply. You will want to explain or counter. Don’t. It won’t help and people will be less eager to help you out the next time. If you ask for negative feedback, you know you won’t like it.
Accept the feedback, use it and improve.
And I’m sure your mom, dad or loved one is amazing. And loves you very much. But be careful with their feedback!
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When you are speaking, you want your message to come across. And to make that happen every single time, you want to be better every single time.
There is one way that without a doubt will improve all of your talks. And it’s very easy to do.
I’ve been doing it every time I spoke in the last decade or so, everywhere in the world.
It’s something every speaker should do, but not every speaker does even if it is so easy to do. It doesn’t cost any money, you don’t need any material or equipment. All you need is the guts to do it.
When you are communicating, whether it is in a talk or a conversation, facial expressions are important. If someone pulls a face when drinking orange juice, you can see how sour the orange juice is. And you will almost be able to taste the sourness. That is, if the expression fits the taste.
Emotions are transferred through the facial expressions. You can see disgust, see sourness, see anger or see happiness. In fact: as an audience, you will feel the emotion.
This means that as a speaker, you can play with people’s emotions, using your face. It’s therefor important to pay attention to your facial expressions.
When you’re talking about something that is exciting, make sure your face is exciting! Smile when you are happy! When you’re talking about something sad… pull up a sad face… And of course, When you are talking about something angry, be angry!
Your audience will experience the emotion you are expressing.
There are exercises you can do to train showing emotions. I’ve added a few in the document attached to this article.
Try to test out the different emotions that you have in your presentation. And see how people respond. You will be surprised by the impact of your face.
Whether you are speaking at a conference or pitching for new clients. Whether you are teaching a workshop class or webinar. Or whether you are applying for a new position next year. All these situations ask for speaking and convincing skills.
To be successful, you will need to be able to persuade. Show those in the room that YOU are the solution to their problems.
This is not easy. It’s a lot of work. And it is stressful.
We say anyone can be a convincing speaker. Because everyone has talents. The key is to highlight these talents!
As Sally Hogshead said:
This means: be the best you that you can be!
Becoming the best you can be will take one step: being ready to make the change.
Our training sessions do exactly what you need: help you become the best you that you can be.
We look at your talents and build your speaking skills from there. Highlight that was is strong and makes you stand out.
Let us help you become that persuasive and confident speaker.
Past attendees of our training sessions have experienced exactly that:
SEMRush’ Ashley Ward says:
Lloyd’s Russell O’Sullivan says:
Deepcrawl’s Rachel Costello says:
Search Integrations’ Sara Clifton says:
They have become part of our elite persuasive speakers group!
Are you ready to become an elite persuasive speaker?
Sign up for one of our training or coaching sessions now. And in 2019, you will be an elite persuasive speaker!
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Persuading or convincing people isn’t easy.
People don’t like to be wrong. And most people believe they are right. Tell them they aren’t, and you are the bad guy…
This means there is a really important thing you need to remember when you are on stage. Especially when you want to convince or persuade people. If you want to convince them about something that is your vision, you will need to make sure that you start off on the same side as those people.
There is one thing that people really want when you describe a problem or when you describe a situation. That is that they feel like you’re talking about them.
Their feeling should be: “Hey that’s me he’s talking about!”
As soon as people have the
And that is when they will feel that you understand them!
And when they feel you understand them, they will feel that whatever you have to say will help them. And therefore they will believe you!
As long as you can get that recognition element from your audience, you can convince them about anything you want.
In the video below, Bas van den Beld explains the importance of making people recognize themselves: