Authority is central to success; people need to perceive you as a credible influencer and expert source of information if they are to trust your judgement, rely upon your services, and ultimately place you in a position of responsibility. So, you need to know what you’re talking about.
But what if you don’t?
Becoming an expert takes time, and it’s often impossible to amass the necessary amount of information in time for a crucial conference or meeting. Here’s how to build an impenetrable persona of understanding in just a couple of hours.
Research the Latest Trends
The most impressive topic is the same across all industries – it’s the new topic. Even the top authorities within each field find it hard to keep track of emerging trends and new areas of information or research, and these are likely to be popular subjects at professional events.
As an undercover non-expert, these newer areas provide a tactical advantage; if you spend an hour or two researching the latest topics, you can speak with authority on a subject that is extremely likely to come up. It’s like knowing which questions will be asked during an exam. To find out what’s new, try searching ‘Google News’, looking at online summaries of recent conferences, or checking the latest blog posts from key influencers.
Take Smart Shortcuts
Top CEOs and leading politicians use teams of advisors to provide regular summaries of the latest news in order to remain thoroughly informed. You probably don’t have those resources at your disposal, but you do have the power of the internet, and that allows you to take advantage of several key shortcuts.
Instead of reading the book, read a few reviews. Instead of spending hours with various pieces of source material, find short overview videos on YouTube. You’ll be given the gist of your chosen situation or subject, plus an adoptable opinion, all without the tedious legwork.
The possession of information counts for nothing if you don’t nail the delivery. Confident speakers are trusted speakers, so foster a credible impression by taking the following steps:
- Stand Tall, But Relaxed: Slouching broadcasts insecurity; a ramrod-straight spine indicates uneasiness. Stand straight, but maintain a casual appearance.
- Maintain Eye Contact: Expert speakers have been shown to enjoy higher credibility ratings when they maintain eye contact.
- Speak Slowly: Nervous speakers pour out sentences as quickly as possible – it does not make a strong impression.
- Avoid Fillers: Words such as ‘um’, ‘like’, and ‘well’ are fillers. It’s okay to pause if you need to think, but you should aggressively strike these words from your vocabulary.
Your aim is to sound like you know what you’re talking about, not to prove that you’re the most intelligent person in the room. Avoid using long, complex terms – they actually make you sound less credible – and offer insights only when they are relevant to the conversation.
Above all, listen and question. Experts become experts by learning from others. If you want to be perceived as a person whose knowledge is to be trusted, don’t be afraid to betray your own ignorance of certain subjects by actively listening and questioning other speakers on their own areas of influence.
Establishing yourself as an expert is crucial for professional advancement, but the best business people understand that smart steps, like those listed above, can take you where you need to go faster – even if you’re not quite as well-versed as you appear.