Robert Cialdini in his book Influence – The psychology of persuasion, credits authority as one of the pillars of influence. He cites the 1963 Milgram experiment where volunteers were more likely to be influenced by an individual who they perceived had authority.
The challenge for us is that authority in business is in decline. The days of control and command are long gone and many organisations are doing away with corporate hierarchy altogether. Today, in order to get our job done, we need to be able to influence those we have no authority over.
So if we have less authority, what tools do we have to help us be more influential?
The answer is credibility.
The Oxford dictionary defines authority as the power or right to give orders, to make decisions and enforce obedience. Unless you work in the military or a para military organisation, you may have a little trouble trying to ‘enforce obedience’. Credibility is defined as the quality of being trusted, convincing or believable, which is something that we can earn rather than wait until it is bestowed upon us.
Here are 5 ways you can boost your credibility in your next presentation.
1. Establish trust
Do your homework on your audience. Understand their jobs and the burning issues that they are facing. Work on building rapport as soon as you meet them. Smile, shake hands, ask questions and listen intently.
Share a personal story that relates to your message. A West Virginia University study by Myers and Brann in 2009 demonstrated the benefits of self disclosure in building credibility.
2. Weave in credibility
Demonstrate that you know what you are talking about. Give us examples of your expertise. Tell us the projects you have worked on and the results you have achieved.
If you use examples that are relevant to your message and your audience you will enhance your credibility rather than come across as boastful.
3. Ensure your non verbal signs match your message
Now is the time to stand tall, raise your head and look people in the eye. In western culture we instinctively don’t trust people that don’t look at us. We perceive your clasped hands as a lack of confidence and an upward intonation at the end of a sentence makes it sound like you don’t know what you are talking about.
4. Be authentic
Keep it real and accept your humanity and the limitations of your product or idea. Nothing kills credibility faster than if you bluff or promise things that you can’t deliver. If you don’t know the answer, reply with: “I don’t have that information available on me now, but I can email it to you as soon as I get back to my office” This will help maintain your credibility rather than shatter it.
5. Look the part
Yes, you will be judged on how you look. Fair? No. Reality? Yes. Dress appropriately for your position and consider your audience’s perception. So if you’re speaking on personal fitness, you better look better than me in lycra. When presenting to the board, spend a little extra time making sure that you are professionally attired in clothes that match the company culture.
I once asked an Elders employee what would happen if he arrived on a farm wearing his Italian wool suit and silk tie and he replied, “Well, you gotta remember that farmers own guns…”
So… now it’s your turn. What are you going to do to enhance your credibility?