Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Importance of Credibility to the Public Speaker

The statistics on the PowerPoint slide made a deep impression on the participants and one of them asked for the source of the presenter's information. He replied an insurance company but did not give specifics. The question had been answered but we were none the wiser. Still I made a note of the statistics. I was intrigued.

Later I was writing an auricle and planned to incorporate the figures into it. I did some research to verify the statistics and to my surprise discovered that the most current research actually proved the opposite of what this presenter had said.

Yet, these statistics had formed a major part of his case for the product he was promoting. His whole argument fell apart and not because there wasn't any truth in the remainder of the content of his presentation but because he had lost credibility.

Once lost, credibility is hard to regain. When you are on stage, as a public speaker, you are viewed as an authority figure, an expert. People want to learn from you and be persuaded by you. Of course you can air your opinion but back it up with facts and be prepared to share your sources if necessary. If people ask for such information it is usually out of nothing more than curiosity - they want to learn more.

Brian Tracy describes credibility as "…the most important single word in marketing, selling and business that determines how much you earn, how often you earn it, your standard of living, your quality of life, the home you live in, the schools your kids go to and everything that happens to you in business."

If your audience feels they have been duped they will probably never trust you again. Dave Lakhani, an expert on persuasion, says that people are fundamentally looking for "salvation", whatever that might mean to the individual. If you mislead your audience, they will simply seek salvation elsewhere.

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