How to Make Yourself a More Credible Speaker
Experts agree that credibility plays an essential role in effective public speaking. Yet what exactly does credibility mean? How can a speaker enhance his or her credibility?
Back in 1974, a team of researchers (McCroskey, Holdridge, and Toomb) identified five dimensions of credibility in public speaking. (Interestingly, these same dimensions have been since used to measure the credibility of managers, workplaces, job performance, and even Wikipedia entries!) Audiences rate speaker credibility highest when they experience all five dimensions during the presentation.
I’m going to give you a survey based on these dimensions of credibility. Instead of simply reading the information, please develop a mental scale from “1” to “5” for each dimension. (1 signifies “I am weak in this area,” 5 means “I feel very confident with this,” and 3 means “I’m somewhere in the middle.”) Rate yourself on each dimension using this scale.
When you finish the mini-survey, I’ll provide some suggestions for “pumping up” those elements which you found weak. Be honest with your answers—remember, all you can do is improve!
Rate Yourself: Five Dimensions of Speaker Credibility
Competence: The degree to which your audience perceives you to be an expert in the specific topic of your presentation. (Rate yourself 1–5.)
Character: The degree to which your audience perceives you to be a reliable, essentially trustworthy message source. (Rate yourself 1–5.)
Composure: The degree to which you are perceived as being able to maintain emotional control. (Rate yourself 1–5.)
Extroversion: The degree to which your audience perceives you as being bold, outgoing, and dynamic. (Rate yourself 1–5.)
Sociability: The degree to which the audience perceives you as being someone with whom they could be friends. (Rate yourself 1–5.)
What do you notice about all five dimensions? They all focus on how your audience perceives you. This presents a challenge, as none of us can actually control others’ perceptions. However, by identifying where you fall with each of the dimensions, you gain insights into your behaviors. Changing these behaviors will positively impact the perceptions others have of you as a speaker.
Which Dimensions Did You Rate the Lowest?
These helpful guidelines provide strategies to strengthen each dimension of your credibility.
Actions you can take to increase your Competence as a speaker:
• REALLY know your stuff in this area.
• If hit with a question you can’t answer, say, “I don’t know,” do your research, and follow up with that questioner after the presentation.
• Get a well-respected person to introduce you: “I’m impressed with Bill. He has really done his homework and has important things to share.”
Actions you can take to increase your Character as a speaker:
• Never fudge the facts.
• Shun rumors and gossip.
• Be aware that your over-all reputation precedes you to the podium.
Actions you can take to increase your Composure as a speaker:
• Practice the speech 5–7 times in front of a mirror, like the experts do.
• Close your eyes. Visualize giving the speech expertly, especially the hard parts.
• Ask a friend to try to say something to knock you off balance emotionally when you least expect it. (Don’t go too far with this—remember that no one has died!) Respond with equilibrium.
Actions you can take to increase your Extroversion as a speaker (Challenging all introverts!)
• Become more aware of your posture. Make yourself taller and take up more physical space.
• Practice standing with your arms softly bent at the elbow, hands open in an inviting gesture.
• Practice projecting your voice so that it hits the opposite wall. (This may sound like shouting to you.)
• Send some energy up to your face. Allow your face to bask in a “shot” of energy from your gut. This will animate your face and probably cause you to smile. Good!
Actions you can take to increase your Sociability as a speaker:
• Think of the audience as a very friendly mass that wants you to succeed. (It may help NOT to think of the audience as being made up of individuals, but instead as a mass of positive, supportive energy.)
• Tell yourself several times before your speech: “They are my friends. I like them. They like me.” Curiously, your brain will believe you even if you’ve never met anyone in the audience before.
• Enjoy! You’ve done your homework, so loosen up.
Credibility: your success as a speaker depends on it. When you project these five dimensions as a speaker, you positively impact your audience’s perceptions: you become the most credible speaker possible.
As you integrate these dimensions of credibility into your presentations, tell me about your experiences! Write to me at email@example.com. Your insights may be published in the next edition of Guila Muir’s Train! Facilitate! Present!
Guila Muir is the premiere trainer of trainers, facilitators, and presenters on the West Coast of the United States. Since 1994, she has helped thousands of professionals improve their training, facilitation, and presentation skills. Find out how she can help transform you from a boring expert to a great presenter: www.guilamuir.com
© 2007 Guila Muir. All rights reserved.
You may make copies of this article and distribute in any media so long as you change nothing, credit the author, and include this copyright notice and web address.
- How to Blow Your Credibility From The “Get-Go”
- What Makes a Super Trainer?
- “I Thought I Would Die!” How to Deal With Stage Fright
- All Presenting Is Persuasive
- Four Lessons From the Open Water