[Quick Public Speaking Tip] Does your audience know how competent you are?

Tweet: To be seen as credible you need to be seen as competent @bronwynr

Your credibility will be built on how your audience perceives your competence, your character and your charisma.

Let’s look at that first element of credibility – competence. To be seen as credible you need to be seen as competent.

Obviously you need to know your material, and know it very well. Know it so that you can answer questions that go deep into your subject. Also know your limitations and how you can refer questions to someone who is an expert.

Establish your competence right from the beginning, by ensuring your audience is aware of your credentials and experience. These can be written, very factually into your advertising material, website and brochures. They can also be written into the introduction you are given when you speak. You can also weave them into your speech, and particularly into the introduction. Bragging will not work here. Stories will, however be incredibly effective. Make sure the stories support a point you are making, and it would be good if the point is not necessarily about your competence. Use stories about your experiences, about your client successes and case studies.

Being well organised will show your competence.

Confident presentation will indicate competence. Be prepared for your presentation so that the confidence is genuine. Use eye contact to further establish your confidence and sincerity – your comfort with your subject and the act of sharing your information. Composure – emotional control – is anther facet of this. Be prepared for anything that might throw your emotional control.
Finally, use quotations, statistics and other support material from sources that are held in high regard by your audience. If you are quoting a source on health, for example, you would choose, say, the Mayo Clinic rather than, for example, Wikipedia.

Plant the seeds of your credibility throughout your speech or presentation. Establish your competence, and you will have established a foundation for successfully persuading your audience to act, be or think in the way you wanted.

Q & A – What to say if you don’t know the answer


Many speakers fear and avoid a Q & A.

Why … because they fear a disaster spiraling out of control.

“What if someone asks a question and I don’t know the answer?”

Experienced speakers know, however, that rather than being a disaster, a Q&A is a wonderful opportunity and they prepare to leverage that opportunity.

“But how can you prepare for every question? No-one can know the answer to everything!”

Let’s look, instead, at preparing for the opportunity buried within this seemingly impossible disaster.

First step … If you don’t know the answer, admit it. That is not a disaster, in itself, or in the making.

Admitting to not knowing the answer is a chance to build authenticity.

Audiences are reasonable. They understand that in the avalanche of information available, no one person can know it all.

There is nothing authentic or credible about someone trying to side-step a question with blustering. Much better to tell the truth.

But before you lose your credibility as an expert, have a plan for response to these questions.

1. If it’s possible, know the experts in the room. Throw the question to one of them, and you are providing a resource just as much as if you had given an answer. You have provided an answer. You have created or reinforced a connection with the other expert. And you have positioned yourself within a community of experts.

2. You can also refer the question back to the audience in general. You are building engagement here with your interaction. If it is possible to allow discussion, you can build a sense of community within the audience. If it’s appropriate you can ask for opinions, stories and examples as well as facts.

3. Finally, saying “No comment” just doesn’t work. You appear either to be completely ignorant and helpless on the subject, or worse still, trying to hide something. If there is no way to answer in the moment, commit to getting the answer to the questioner as soon as possible – to either giving them good sources/resources at the end of your presentation or to communicating an answer in coming days. If you cannot answer because it is not appropriate or you are not at liberty to answer, explain why. Again, audiences are generally reasonable and understanding.
This is also providing an opportunity to reinforce your respect for your audience and its members. Answering with integrity and an honest effort to help, you are showing respect for the person asking the question and for the question itself, no matter how awful the question or the motives of the questioner.

That respect is all part of the process of building and maintaining your credibility and your authenticity. And Q&A has given you the opportunity to contribute more to that process. Rather than being a disaster waiting to happen, Q&A becomes a valuable opportunity.

Quick public speaking tip – Congruence in body language

If your body is declaring that you are not sincere in what you are saying then your credibility decreases and there is no way your message will have the impact it should have. So everything that implies relaxed, enthusiastic confidence and sincerity is vital now.

Think about the tone of your message. Is it relaxed, conversational? Then make your body language relaxed. Is it passionate, strong and powerful, then create body language that conveys that power. Is it alert and enthusiastic, then your body language will be upright and reflecting that enthusiasm.

Use Body Language to add hidden power to the Message of Your Presentation

In any speech or presentation, your body language adds power to the message. It supports what your words are saying. The operative word here is, of course, “support”. Body language must be in tune with the message. And the corollary is that body language must also not distract or detract from the message. If they are denying each other, then your presentation will fail.

Confidence and sincerity are the absolute basis for this process. If your body is declaring that you are not sincere in what you are saying then your credibility decreases and there is no way your message will have the impact it should have. Think about the tone of your message. Is it relaxed, conversational? Then make your body language relaxed. Is it passionate, strong and powerful, then create body language that conveys that power. Is it alert and enthusiastic, then your body language will be upright and reflecting that enthusiasm.

You also need to be aware that your gestures can support or detract from your message. Learn to become aware of what your hands are doing while you speak. If necessary, make yourself hold them still. Many people have habits that are terribly distracting and yet they aren’t aware of what they are doing. They click or twiddle a pen, play with their hair or their clothes, hold a microphone with fingers unconsciously making a rude gesture, take glasses on and off, put hands in pockets and take them out. All of these things are not necessarily detrimental in themselves, if the audience is absolutely focused on the speaker and the message. But if there is any reason for the audience’s attention to stray (and we all have short attention spans) then they will become fascinated, at best, and possibly annoyed at whatever it is that the speaker is doing with their hands.

If, on the other hand, (my pun!!), those hands are working to support the speech, they will bring the attention back to the message. They will also give power to the impact of the message.

Natural gestures are basically the aim. If you are not a natural gesturer, your body will support your message. It is necessary to be aware that you are not repeating the same gesture many times. It may add emphasis the first time, but after that it will distract as much as the others mentioned earlier. Watch television journalists and sooner or later you will notice this.

You can also practice gestures. Join a public speaking club (and I recommend POWERtalk), where you can practise in a supportive environment until you are comfortable, and confident that your gestures are not detracting from your message.

Of course, there are many books and websites with information about body language and gestures. Basically:
Gestures above shoulder level support messages about things that are spiritual or uplifting (a church minister will raise his hands in blessing).

Ordinary messages are supported by gestures at the middle level of your body.

Things that are despicable or degrading or debilitating are supported by gestures below the waist.
You can use your palms. Held out, palm upwards, they support supplication, requesting a response, or openness. They can be used to indicate division if held vertically with the little finger down. Using a fist is a very powerful gesture. It indicates strong power and passion, and may also be used as a threat. Be careful with that. Take care, too, with pointing with a finger. People don’t respond well to accusation or to being singled out, so be sure your gesture supports your message.

Your clothes, too, can distract attention from your message. If you have a very bright or unusual item of clothing, if your scarf or tie flaps in a breeze, if your earrings dangle or click, or your necklace or tie pin clicks on a microphone, the audience will be distracted from your message. Again, unless your message is absolutely riveting, your clothes will become the centre of attention just as gestures can, and your message will lose its impact.

How you stand and walk works in just the same way. If you are a passionate speaker who simply cannot stand still, then hopefully you will support the passion of your message. Try to use standing still to give the same sort of impact that a pause in the middle of rapid speech would give. If you choose to move or change position just to provide relief because you think your speech is boring; be careful. It may be that your movement will have more impact than your massage. Timing can help so that you change position with a new idea or with a new visual support. Try to make all of your body language work with the movement. So, for example, if you want to walk to give the impression of thinking of a new idea, then set your hand up to your face to indicate thoughtfulness, and speak slowly or stop speaking altogether.

Facial expression, too, must be in harmony with your message, or it will work against it, just as your body language does.

Everything – body language, image and message must work together to create the impact you have chosen.


© Bronwyn Ritchie … If you want to include this article in your publication, please do, but please include the following information with it:
Bronwyn Ritchie helps speakers to be confident and effective. In just 6 months time, you could be well on the way to being admired, rehired as a speaker, confident and sucessful, with the 30 speaking tips. Click here for 30 speaking tips for FREE. Join now or go to http://www.30speakingtips.com

Public Speaking tips – the value of eye contact

Making eye contact with the audience is vital in projecting confidence and authenticity. 

Looking people in the eye in any form of face to face contact means you are not afraid of being caught out. 

You are not lying or deceiving. You have confidence in your message. You are being sincere. 

So use it as much as you can in your public speaking, to have people connect, believe and follow. 

Public Speaking Tip – “What do I want the audience to remember of me?”

Who are you? How will you be remembered after this presentation? Are you professional, poised, articulate? Are you warm, folksy, creative, nurturing? Maybe you want to be seen as ballistic, confronting, no-nonsense, boot camp material. What message will your clothes and your grooming convey? What will your choice of language say about you?
You cannot be someone you are not, when you present, unless you are prepared to be a performer for the entire production. Insincerity will detract from your speech as quickly as a joke in bad taste. But you can present a side of yourself as the highlight – the side you want your audience to remember.
And the most powerful choice you will make is how you get that image to support your message – how you put the two together.

What does your audience see when you speak?


Public speaking is all about getting a message across … speaking.

OK, that being said, let’s step back and away from that for a moment and think about it differently. Think about it as you would a television show or movie with the sound off. What do you see? What does your audience see when you are speaking (with the sound off)?

Look at your clothes. What do they say about you? Yes I know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we do. Everyone does. Audiences do. So what do your clothes say about you? Is that the message you wanted them to convey? The message the audience gets from your clothes needs to support the impact you want to make.

On the other hand, are your clothes making their own statement? Do they stand out so much that they are more interesting than your words or message?

What the audience sees needs to reinforce your message and both need to work together to create the impact you decided you wanted. You did choose an impact, didn’t you? You didn’t want to just leave it to chance, did you?

So when you are rehearsing and preparing your speech or presentation by visualising the whole process being a success … include in the picture what you will look like. Imagine what the audience response is to what you look like. Run a mind movie of what you look like when you walk onto the stage or to the front of the room. What are they expecting to be in the book that is you when they see its cover? What are they thinking. Look into their minds. Read their faces. Is that what you wanted? If it’s not, then adapt the picture accordingly. Change the mind movie until you know that the way you look is going to get the response from the audience that you want. Then you will be thoroughly prepared to create the impact of your choice.

Public Speakers: How to Say, “I Don’t Know” From the Platform and Not Lose Credibility

Does being afraid that you cannot effectively field questions by the audience keep you from accepting opportunities for public speaking? You are not alone; believing you will look like a dummy and lose your credibility (or the sale) for not knowing an answer can be overwhelming.

Growing beyond this concern starts with a look at this possibility from your audience’s perspective. The audience has arrived because it has all ready been determined that you are credible and know what you are taking about. Agree with the person who gave you the nod to speak to this group.

Agreement is powerful and a two-edged sword. Two or more people who believe presenter may get themselves in trouble must be avoided at all costs so tell those close to you who are concerned to hush. Remember the audience is not thinking in this vein. These opposing actions can create a perfect storm. Did you see the movie? This is not a good thing.

Managing the, “I don’t know” scenario is the same on and off the platform. You have a few ways to handle this.

1. Get Real and Plan: While planning the presentation play devil’s advocate by intentionally trying to stump yourself. Looking at the presentation in an attempt to pick it apart is a best practice and is a terrific way to ward off a potentially uncomfortable scenario. If while asking tough questions about your material you may discover a key point that needs to be added to the body of the presentation. If so, add it.

If what you discover is important and should be the pivotal point of the presentation, then rewrite the introduction and work it into the body and the conclusion. Your opening statements should be statement with a promise of sorts to prove your statement and therefore must be within the body and the conclusion of the presentation.

By the way, the trick of speaking well into the Q&A session to avoid questions is not unprofessional nor does it work.

2. Be Real and Fess Up: It is going to happen you know – getting stumped. If you are not Elvis and have, “left the building” someone, at some point, will approach and leave you speechless. Whether this happens from the platform or one-on-one after the presentation – your answer can be the same, “Good Question. And, (pause) I do not know. I will, however, quickly research that answer after we are finished here or if you would prefer, leave your contact information (eMail) with ____________ (name your host) I will get back with you before day’s end.” If you are stumped during the presentation you may also add, “Is anyone in the audience know the answer or this question?” As always be sure all members of the audience can hear the question and the answer to every question.

Warning: Not following up with an answer will cost your credibility, the sale, or both.

3. Be Professional and Network: As an ongoing practice, surround yourself with people who know more than you so you may call upon to help you with the answer (and more). Dr. Ted Becker, one of two people in history who have a PhD in human performance said, “It is important to be the dummy of the group. The only way there is up.” Surprisingly, knowledgeable people often cannot find a person in to mentor. Recently, Karen Timmons with Dell, Inc. said, “It is not a crime to not know the answer. It is, however, a crime to not know who does.”

Consider this incident:

Lat week I was in the exam room with my doctor when he took his cell phone from his pocket and searched for the answer to my question. This was blatant evidence that my doctor doesn’t know all things medical. This came as no surprise to me as even the best cannot answer all things. Nor is it reasonable to think so. (Your audience knows this.) In my mind my doctor’s credibility actually increased as it appeared that my question and I were important to him.

Get Real. Be Real. Be a Professional.

Be Not Afraid.


Kathryn is owner of Write Speak Transcribe Business Services
Kathryn has been a freelance writer for fifteen years and a Food Service Management Specialist for eighteen years.
She is a dynamic speaker who provides her client’s end users with a presentation that yields responses like, “Thanks for telling me that!” and “Where do I sign?” She specializes in providing her client’s an opportunity to contribute to their customer’s knowledge base in a particular area — a customer enlightenment that oft times is not sales related yet produces an increase in the bottom line of those who utilize her.
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