Public speaking is something that many people struggle with. In fact, 75% of the population has a fear of public speaking. Just the mere mention of it may start to make your heart race, if it is a fear of yours! Truth be told, I most definitely fall into the 75% category.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy talking to people! In fact, it is something I do almost every day as a Human Risk Analyst. However, speaking to an audience is a whole different beast. I recently gave my first company speech entitled, “The Factor of Human Error.” In prepping for my speech, I realized that the techniques I daily use as a certified social engineer equipped me more than I realized. Combined with the practical tips from my fellow team members, I was able to power through my speech and provide the information in a way that would hopefully prompt my listeners to act.

In this article I’ll go over some of the techniques we use in vishing simulations and how they can help us to influence the audience we may be speaking to.
How SE Helped Me in Public Speaking

Influence Techniques

At Social-Engineer, you may often hear or read about us referring to “Influence Techniques.” These are methods of influence that we use on live vishing calls with our clients and are part of our framework. When speaking to a live audience, especially on a topic as important as cybersecurity, it is important to motivate and influence your listeners to want to make a change or act. Here are some influence techniques that help, both as a professional social engineer and a public speaker.


People are more prone to be influenced by things or people that they like. Therefore, Liking is such a powerful tool for a social engineer both on the phone and on the stage. In a vishing call, Liking often takes the form of cracking a joke, making lighthearted conversion, or even adjusting the pitch/tone of our voice to be more inviting. This helps move our target to 1) continue the conversation with us, and 2) take an action we want them to take.

These same methods can be used on a stage! If trying to motivate your audience, speaking in a monotone voice or seeming very apathetic about your own subject matter can often dissuade people. While remaining professional, incorporating humor and speaking passionately about your subject will help your listeners to be more receptive to the information you are delivering. When trying to influence a crowd to take some sort of action, be the proponent that they want to follow!

Social Proof

This psychological phenomenon occurs in social situations when people cannot determine the appropriate mode of behavior. People will often follow the momentum of the crowd, if the consensus of the majority seems acceptable. In a Vishing call, we often use Social Proof to feed our target information on what we want them to believe is socially acceptable. For example, if presenting our target with the idea of an HR Survey, we may refer that they are one of many on our list of employees to reach out to. We might allude to others taking the survey too.

Using Social Proof during a speech is much easier than in an adversarial simulation…though the results are just as effective! Whatever your topic is, try and find ways it benefits others, and use that to highlight its importance. For example, let’s say you’re trying to motivate your audience to use Multifactor Authentication. Instead of just focusing on why it is beneficial, why not show how it has benefited multiple companies and protected them from potential threats? Give examples on the positive impact in everyday life in protecting one’s identity. By highlighting the topic as something positive and acceptable among others, it might be the nudge your audience needs to act as well.

NOTE: Do not fabricate information for your topic in a desperate attempt to motivate your audience. Using real-life statistics and examples is very important in case your audience does their own research into what you have shared. Put in the time to give examples of real social proof.


Obligation is an influence technique that needs to be handled carefully. It involves actions one feels they need to take due to some sort of social, legal, or moral requirement, duty, or promise. It is closely related to reciprocation but is not limited to it. Think of holding an outer door open for someone entering a building, often the individual might hold the inner door open for you in return. If you treat people kindly and give them something they may need, even in the case of a compliment, it can create a sense of obligation to you.

In a vishing call, complimenting can create a source of obligation, but we can also create a sense of duty for our target. We might say that they were “on a list of employees that needed to update their system so we can proceed with a mass software patch.” This not only creates a sense of urgency, but also influences the target into feeling like it is their responsibility to make sure everything else flows smoothly.

Obligation – a powerful tool

Using obligation in a speech is a powerful tool, especially if the topic you are speaking about is a responsibility that falls on everyone else. For example, let’s say your topic is motivating an audience to be more security conscious. You may highlight how each employee has been given a heavy responsibility by their company to help protect their fellow employees. This sense of duty may motivate the individual to take security more seriously as now they feel it is their obligation to do so.

We could also try complementing our audience on how well they have been with security awareness training. We can then follow up on this commendation with a request for them to do even more. Of course, we should never aim to “guilt” or “force” our audience into taking a specific action, rather through positive inspiration will we often find the best results.


Overall, Influence Tactics strike common ground between its use in a social engineering engagement and public speaking. It may also be beneficial to combine different Influence Tactics to effectively influence your audience.

Of course, we need to adapt to the crowd as well. These techniques are not a 100% guarantee or cheat code to be an effective speaker. We must still put in the time to familiarize ourselves with our own source material. Influence tactics can only do so much for us if we don’t know our material well, as is the case in a vishing call if we don’t have our pretext properly formulated.

However, combining these efforts and practical tips, such as proper pacing, practice, and organization, will help you be an effective speaker. You will be able to break through to your audience and motivate them in a positive way. At Social-Engineer, our motto is, “leave them feeling better for having met us”. Aim to do the same for your audience!

Written by:
Josten Peña
Human Risk Analyst at Social-Engineer, LLC