To persuade your audience to act on your message they must believe you. To be believable you must be both credible and earn their trust. If you don’t have credibility, no one will listen. If you have credibility but your audience does not trust you, they will not believe you.
Credibility + Trust = Believability
How to Establish Your Credibility
Your credibility is based on who the audience believes you to be and what they believe you have done and will do. However, even if you have impressive credentials and they do not believe the credentials you will not be credible.
There are four parts of your presentation where you can establish and enhance your credibility.
- Before your presentation
- During your introduction
- During your presentation
- After your presentation
Before your presentation your credibility can be established by your reputation. That includes your accomplishments – but more importantly what others say about you. Client testimonials are especially powerful. Your reputation can be enhanced by your previous presentations and published works. If your audience has read about you or read a report or article written by you, they will believe you to be more credible. You might provide and distribute an article or report to the audience before the presentation. They don’t need to read it to appreciate the credibility.
The introduction that the audience hears can build your credibility because it appears as a third-party endorsement. Be sure to include facts about key accomplishments not every accomplishment.
During your presentation you can enhance your credibility in three ways. The sources that you reference can help you if your audience both knows of and respects the source. That might be a book, report or news publication.
The apparent ease, honesty and clarity of how you answer questions from your audience can greatly reinforce your credibility.
In your presentation mention examples of your work with other clients.
“When I worked with a client with a similar challenge as you are facing, here is how we handled it.”
“The answer to that question is based on what I found from working with over 500 business leaders.”
“A good example of that is how we worked with one client who is a leader in the transportation industry.”
Depending on the sensitivity of the details – you might or might not mention your client’s name. If you can, give names because that is more believable. Never misrepresent yourself and your experience. Never lie! The audience will eventually find out. Credibility is hard to gain and easy to lose.
Refer to other speaking engagements completed recently or other audiences’ reactions to your suggestions to help establish believability as long as they are not overdone.
In establishing your credibility, you want to create an image of professional competence and experience, by referring to your other activities in business and your contacts. If you tell your audience, it will create a positive context for your topic. As a result, they will take your message more seriously.
Another way to establish credibility is to draw attention to a recent personal achievement that the group can relate to, such as a promotion, an award, a report you have written or the publication of an article.
Try to follow this formula for enhancing the believability of your presentation: two-thirds of your credibility during a presentation should be evident from what you say with the remaining one-third resulting from your written materials or visual aids.
After your presentation you can build on the established credibility by doing what you said you would do. If you don’t, you can kill all the work you did up to that point.
Gain their Trust
Trust like many of the important concepts in business presentations is an intangible. If you don’t have it – nothing else matters. When you have established trust, you can overcome both tangible and intangible obstacles.
We tend to trust those who are similar. If you pretend to be perfect, we will not trust you because we all secretly know that we are imperfect. You can build trust by recognizing your imperfection. Admit a fault or failure. Helping your audience to laugh is one way to build trust, especially if the laugh is on you. Finding common ground with your audience builds trust. Telling a personal story about your family or a personal accomplishment can build trust. Talking in a conversational manner instead of lecturing builds trust. Treating your listeners as equals builds trust. Never talk down or up to your audience. The first annoys and the second diminishes your value.
How you look and move has an overwhelming effect on trust. Eye contact builds trust. A smile builds trust. A frown or sneer does not. Rapid movements look suspicious. Slow and calm movement projects confidence.
When you want the audience to believe you, establish your credibility and build trust.