Blake Snyder wrote a book on screenwriting called Save the Cat. In it he bemoaned the loss of the ‘Save the Cat’ scene. He said they’ve stopped putting it in films. It’s the scene where we meet the hero, and the hero does something – like saving a cat – that defines who he is and makes us, the audience, like him. It’s the scene that makes you root for the character.
One of the easiest things for a politician or a business leader doing routine speeches is to forget how important it is to be liked. A good speechwriter will put a ‘Save the Cat’ line in the first couple of paragraphs of every speech.
The psychologist, Robert Cialdini, lists physical attractiveness, similarity, compliments and association as key traits that make people likeable.
We know from TV that we like to watch beautiful people. Hence Boris Johnson was told to lose weight for his Mayoral campaign by his advisor, Lynton Crosby. We prefer our politicians without paunches.
Margaret Thatcher used her experiences as a housewife to say ‘I’m just like you’ and to persuade people a national economy is just like a household budget. UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, used his pint of beer as a symbol of how he’s more like the ordinary man, than another one of those lying politicians.
The former Chief Rabbi would pay warm compliments to the institution and key characters hosting him before starting his speech. George W Bush used a technique of pointing to someone in the audience and acknowledging them as a devious way of creating rapport.
Comedians often tell the audience how great they are. Guy Browning has a line,
It’s very rare that I talk to an audience as good-looking and intelligent as this one. Hands up who is sitting next to someone good-looking and intelligent?
This has the benefit of flattering the audience, and getting them involved.
Sporting success is something that people feel deep emotions about. So it’s smart to associate yourself with any recent national victories.
Daniel Pink described how he used local knowledge to endear Al Gore to audiences.
…say he was speaking in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. We’d find out the most popular coffee shop in Sheboygan and its most popular pastry. Then somewhere in the speech, we’d include a place for him to say matter-of-factly, ‘If you’re talking about health care down at Charley Café’s – and maybe eating one of those cherry-walnut scones – you might wonder whether our Medicare plan covers.. People love that sort of touch. Homework pays.
You want to avoid delivering bad news. Cialdini talks about a weatherman who got death threats because the rain wouldn’t stop. Isaac Asimov pinpointed the reasons why likeability reaches so deep.
All things being equal, you root for your own sex, your own culture, your own locality…and what you want to prove is that you are better than the other person. Whomever you root for represents you and when he wins, you win.