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Ethos is the Greek word for character. And Greek philosopher Aristotle referred to ethical appeal as a way for a speaker to build trust and influence their audience. The topic of a speaker's credibility is a broad one, but credibility is the brand that represents you as the speaker. It can be divided into to perceptions, actions and behaviors. So as I refer to each credibility area, think of how you come across to your intended audience. Let's start with perceptions.
If you're speaking to a group where you're an outsider, it really helps if someone introduces you from the inside of the organization, someone who the audience trusts and respects. If you cannot make that happen, try to connect with members of your audience before your presentation. Introduce yourself. Try to find out what interest they have in your topic. This gives you a chance to get to know your audience and customize your presentation even more. Your goal is to manage the perception of an outsider by having relevant information.
Now, in Katie's case her past presentation to the group, her reputation in the company, the professional and personal relationships she has nurtured with the executive team are all part of her brand. Credibile actions are easy to measure. A speaker builds his credibility with written communication before and after the presentation. The energy, timeliness and quality of interactions before and after the presentation and the level of research he or she has done around the topic all speak of credibility.
Credibile presenters talk with authority on topics where the research is ample, recent, relevant, and not biased. Credibility in the eyes of the audience is built by the level of customization and audience analysis the speaker has done. When an outside speaker starts her sentence with something like, "From what I read in your company's annual report..." Well, that shows interest and connection to the people in the room and as a result builds her credibility.
On the other hand, what robs the speaker of his credibility is the use of fillers such as, "umm, ahh, like, so, you know..." between sentences that communicate uncertainty and are quite distracting. If you tend to use these, try to replace them with thoughtful pauses between your sentences. In Katie's case, she should make sure that she does not increase the tone at the end of her sentence as if she's asking a question.
We call this "uptalk" and it's another way that speakers sound unsure and show a lack of conviction. It's best to avoid hedgers such as, "kind of, sort of, I feel, I gather" and "I suppose". Instead replace them with strong words, facts, statements of "I know" or "In my research I found that". Finally, credibility is judged by non-verbals. In the early 1970s, renowned psychologist Albert Mehrabian studied how the meaning of a message was translated by the people that received it.
He found that 93% of the message was carried by non-verbals; body language, gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice. These studies have been validated in recent years with statistics showing that first impressions are made somewhere between the first seven and seventeen seconds of any interaction. No matter if you're coming in as an outsider into a company or you're Katie in Kinetico, your level of interest in your topic, firmness of your handshake, openness in your body language, confidence in your stance and eye contact all communicate your brand.
You want your presentation to be an extension of that brand. You want it to communicate your expertise and ability to create a relationship with your audience. It's not a coincidence that the word "ethos" translates to character. Have you ever thought about the way you come across to others being your professional brand? Use the credibility handout in the exercise files to be sure you have this influential part of your presentation down.
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