My dad would always tell me what Abe Lincoln or some other sage would have said or done in a situation and I would laugh it off. I’m sure your folks had their own favorite paragons of behavior.
I was thinking of this recently when I came across an article in Fast Company by David Teten and Scott Allen on making yourself into an expert. Their advice is so blindingly simple it is brilliant:
“If you want to be perceived as an expert, act like a true expert.”
The authors raise the question: “Are [experts] necessarily the most knowledgeable on the topic? No. But they have the best reputations and are generally far more financially successful than the wanna-bes.”
I’ve written before about the Young Turks of the Internet blazing a path where older folks have held back. And it struck me that a lot of what they do is assume the mantle of expert without having spent years in the trenches trying to prove themselves.
Part of acting like an expert is creating an allure about what you do. It’s no good being an expert if only your mother appreciates – or knows – what you do. Sort of like the cachet of donning expensive duds, expert behavior signals that you have the smarts and goods to carry off a task nobly.
While the Fast Company article pertains to establishing your reputation online, it’s more than relevant to the offline world as well. So how do experts act? Here are a few thoughts courtesy of Teten and Allen:
• They’re extremely careful about what they say: They know that people are paying attention to them, and that has two consequences. First of all, they know that their reputation is on the line every time they open their mouth — that everything they say will be subject to scrutiny. Secondly, they also know that people will put a lot of weight into what they say and probably act upon it, so they feel a strong sense of responsibility to provide good information.
• Experts substantiate what they say: Experts are researchers. Sure, they have opinions, but most of them didn’t earn their reputations based purely on their opinions. So when they make statements in these groups, they often back these up by citing sources, whether it’s something they’ve written themselves or that someone else wrote. It’s especially helpful if you link to the sources you’re citing. And if it’s yourself, that’s a great promotional tool at the same time.
• Experts don’t “act” smart — they are smart: True experts don’t talk down to people, but they also don’t use jargon or complex language in order to sound impressive. In fact, they are generally more able than most to put the concepts into plain, simple language that everyone can understand, and are patient and willing to do so.
The authors’ closing thought might be something you want to burn into your memory:
“Act like a real expert, not a wanna-be, and you will attract more business.”
How do you act like an expert? And how has it made a difference in your business?
Wendy Marx • Public Relations/Marketing Communications • President, Marx Communications, Inc. • firstname.lastname@example.org