Sometimes when I am delivering a presentation or training session I will ask people whether they are experts. There will always be one person who puts up their hand quickly, confidently and as high as it goes. But what about the rest of the audience? Well, some people half raise their hand hiding it under the table or looking guilty or embarrassed at their own temerity. Others shuffle uncomfortably in their seats. And yet more stare at me and look thoughtful.
When I then ask how many people know some ‘stuff’, nearly everyone sighs a sigh of relief and put up their hands proudly. This is an easy question to answer. Of course they know some ‘stuff’. They have trained over many years. They have qualifications to their name. They are madly, deeply passionate about an idea or product or service or belief. They have years of experience behind them. Of course they are happy to admit that they know more ‘stuff’ than others. And that others may know more ‘stuff’ than them. So what makes people uneasy about giving themselves the title ‘expert’?
Maybe it is reluctance to appear a ‘know-it-all’. Maybe it is a fear that they will be ‘found out’ and they are exposed as not knowing as much as others. Maybe it is a twitchiness that there will be someone in the audience who does actually know more than them. Either way it is the title that concerns some. So here is the challenge. We have this experience, training, qualifications and passion and this ‘stuff can help people and a make a difference to them. But if we don’t let other people know this, then our ability to make an impact and create the change we want to see if severely limited. We know from Robert Cialdini’s book ‘ Influence’, that one of the ways people are influenced is through authority. In other words, people will listen to and give weight to others who are authorities in their field, who are credible and who ‘know their stuff’. So we need to come out from under the bushel and share with people what we know. And when we do this as ‘experts’ we encourage people to take note.
There are two provisos: you DO have to know your stuff otherwise you will sound like an empty drum! And we don’t have to ram what we know down people’s throats. Part of speaking in public, I believe, is to create a genuine rapport, interest and empathy for our audience’s current position. To create a link between what we know and what they want and need to hear. We need to speak from a position of expertise with a healthy dose of humility.
What is your area of expertise? how comfortable are you in labelling yourself as such?
If you want to learn how to speak confidently as an expert in your field and raise your levels of influence, then check out The Expert’s Presentation Gameplan launching at the end of January 2014.