How to help your audience “buy in”

Kieran Flanagan   @ThinkKieranF

When communicating with your customers, community or team, it’s important to move them from awareness to action and from agreement to buy in. Leadership requires far more than being right and entertaining. Lead is a verb - and in every way should be considered a doing word.

If we want to engender trust, to motivate activity and to create buy in, we need to be just as aware of our audience’s default starting position and their concerns as we are of the merits of our argument and the benefits of our vision.

So how do we make our case in such a way that trust and the appropriate action follows?

Understand how they define “justice”

No conversation, whether one to one or one to many, starts in neutral. 

We all bring our intrinsic biases, past experiences and prejudices to the table. Even if we are consciously open to new information, we will unconsciously bias towards justifying our current positions.

So, if you are making a case for change, or a point that might be considered challenging or controversial, it’s critical to understand how they filter justice and define correct behaviour. People are far more open minded to new ideas, however controversial, if they align with their existing filters for moral and just behaviour.

Acknowledge the experience gap

One of the problems thought leaders and experts face when speaking to audiences or trying to inspire their teams is that they have a level of experience and knowledge that far exceeds that of their audience. Often times they will be told to “dumb it down,” which can come across as incredibly judgemental or else as diminishing their work by over-simplifying what might be a nuanced argument.

An alternative filter to dumbing things down is to make your content accessible and useful. Your job as a leader or presenter is not to make your audience as smart as you are on your special subject, but rather to leave them smarter and better resourced than before they heard you speak.

Build a bridge

When seeking to shift an individual's or group's existing beliefs to another position, it’s important to demonstrate how they can get there without personal risk or of losing face.

Make it easy to move from one position to another by reducing the personal and reputational risk of doing so. Too often in attempting to change a individual's or group's perception or position, we make in incredibly difficult for them to agree with us.

In other words, be easy to buy, to agree with and to follow.

Place it within their power to act

Often, the marketing and advertising strategies of charities rely on shock and outrage to prompt volunteers into action and inspire donors to write a cheque or reach into their wallets. However, the shock of crisis statistics or the graphic and confronting nature of some visual material can be so great and the issue seem so large that, even though they empathise with the case being made, they feel powerless in the face of the scale of the issue and will choose not to act out of a sense of pointlessness and powerlessness.

This mean, even if you are setting out a bold vision of change with enormous aspirations to transform your industry or community, it’s also important to make small wins available, and more critically, make early steps achieveable.

What this all means, is that we need to consider the nature of our audience, team or community as carefully as we prepare our arguments and presentation style.

Find out how Kieran can help you become a powerful presenter through her in-house team workshops & one on one mentoring on Presentation Mastery. Contact or visit

Kieran Flanagan is an author, speaker, trainer and social commentator. She helps leaders, teams and organisations “make change positive” through developing Forever Skills including: 

#Innovation - Creativity & Problem Solving

#Collaboration - Teamwork & Team Dynamics

#Inspiration - Engagement & Presentation Mastery

#Transformation - Change & Leadership