What makes you a credible speaker? This is an important question, because unless your audience has confidence and faith in you, your message will fall flat.
Most of us believe that credibility comes with a job title and accomplishments. This is why many speakers are introduced by someone who emphasizes credentials.
And it’s true that your audience will use credentials as a starting point. They’ll also be influenced by the image you project. Your life experience is relevant. Your reputation matters too, if you have one.
But what if you don’t have a big title or an impressive track record? What if no one knows you yet? What if your image doesn’t perfectly align with your status?Is it still possible to earn the trust of an audience?
Absolutely! You can increase your credibility as you deliver your presentation.
A client’s story.
Sherry looked worried. She had been invited to speak at her Alma Mater to an audience of predominantly undergraduate college students. Her topic: Trends in Social Media.
She wasn’t questioning herself or her abilities. After all, Sherry is a successful entrepreneur who builds social media campaigns for a living.
However, she feared that the young college students wouldn’t relate to her because of her age.
“These kids live and breathe social media, so why would they find me credible? I’m Middle Aged!”
Sherry was selling herself short. Haven’t we all done that? She was initially focusing on her IMAGE as a barrier. However, she soon understood that there is so much more to consider when it comes to establishing credibility.
In fact, research points to five factors that affect credibility: title, expertise, image, goodwill and common ground.*
So I urged Sherry to think bigger. This is something I’ve ask many speakers to do when it comes to establishing credibility. Here are some questions that can help:
What is your essential message, and why will it helpful to this particular audience?
How can you relate to your audience? Where is the common ground between what they are up against, and your own professional journey?
What does your audience already know, and what do they need to know?
How can you influence them? What data/evidence exists to support your recommendations?
What stories will you share to deepen their understanding?
How can you build good will with your audience?
Of course, to answer these questions Sherry had to do more research. I’m happy to report that her preparation paid off. She gave her talk recently, and the feedback was fantastic. Sherry’s message resonated with her audience and she has been asked to speak again next year!
Credibility is based upon giving your audience reasons to trust you before, during and even after your presentation. Credentials are a good start, and they are never enough.
P.S. – *These credibility factors are based on the work of social power