“I have no problem speaking in public when I’m an expert in my field. But if I’m speaking to an audience that knows more than me, I’m constantly second-guessing myself.”
Many of our clients struggle with this issue. For those of you in sales, how can you come across as a trusted advisor to your clients when they know more about their industry than you do? For all of us, at some point in our career, we will address an audience that has more knowledge of or experience with an issue than we do.
I’m reminded of an event I went to about book publishing. The speaker said, “If you’re holding back from writing a book because you think someone has already written about the topic, don’t hold back. There is no topic that hasn’t already been covered. Your differentiator is your unique perspective on the topic.” I never forgot that idea, especially now that I’m writing a book on public speaking!
Here are seven tips for speaking to an expert audience.
1. Do your research. Learn more about the audience’s perspectives and challenges by doing research and interviewing other experts. Continue to learn and build your knowledge. This helps you get a better sense of where your unique perspective lies.
2. Prepare your own unique insight. Some of the most innovative ideas come from outside our industry or sector. Think about your experience in other areas and identify a unique insight that your audience wouldn’t have known.
3. Share personal examples. Bring in relevant anecdotes or stories that highlight your background. Using the phrase “in my experience” builds your credibility and authority.
I remember working with a young woman from Egypt who was uncomfortable speaking in public. Due to her age, she couldn’t understand how anyone would ever want to listen to her speak. I said to her, “You have lived through a revolution. You have more credibility than someone with a Ph.D. in the subject.” Own your experience.
4. Find information that is not publicly available. In your research, seek out statistics or background information that is not easily available online. Don’t quote the same studies that everyone else is quoting, look for things that people couldn’t easily find.
5. Make it a discussion, not a lecture. Instead of simply presenting to the audience, make it an interactive discussion. When I’m speaking to communication experts, I mention that they will learn as much from each other as they will learn from me. Instead of dictating solutions, I ask them, “What has worked for you?”
6. Turn questions back to the audience. If someone asks a question you don’t know the answer to, turn it back to the audience and say, “Who here has faced this in the past? How have you handled this?”
7. Ask “Why You?” to build confidence. Before any speech or presentation, I always recommend people ask themselves the 3 Questions: Who is your audience? What is your goal? Why You: Why do you care about your subject?Answering Why You? reminds you of your interest in or passion for this subject which fuels your sense of purpose.
When you walk into a speech or presentation with a mindset of learning and collaborating, you make the conversation much more productive. You validate the expertise of the audience members and start to build a relationship of trust.