How to be an authority on any subject

ExpertA few years back I was in a team meeting when a new communications colleague introduced himself.

He said he’d worked for a US president on a big campaign and that he’d answered directly to the Queen of England as his line manager, before going on to give his views on various subjects.

I didn’t know what to make of it. Well, what would you think? His introduction was a surprise and seemed overly bombastic for this small and humble communications gathering.

However, a few days later, having chewed this over for a good while, I realised a couple of important things.

Firstly, it turned out that my colleague had actually accomplished all these things, and a lot more besides.

But more importantly he had asserted his authority up front before making his contributions to the meeting. He had got everyone listening. People were keen to hear his opinion on all subjects. And after he’d finished speaking people generally concluded that he did, in fact, know what he was talking about.

The lesson I took from this is that if you want to come across as an authority and credible on a particular subject then you need to be perceived as authoritative and credible before you even get going.

Paradoxically, people have to believe you have something important to say, before you’ve actually said anything, in order that they will listen to you in the first place.

Because you can’t always send your CV/resume around before meeting strangers at every meeting you go to, or every presentation you make, you effectively, have to firstly ‘act’ in an authoritative and credible manner, for people to confer expert status upon you.

It’s only when people recognise you as an ‘expert’ that you can then prove to them that, in fact, you are an expert, and the expert that they thought you were in the beginning.

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