Fancy becoming the leading authority in your field to have your words compel others to take action? Do your ideas command more attention?
Most importantly, do you yearn to be known as a thought leader in your industry?
If you belong to a niche in its early growth stages, you are looking at a walk in the park.
The real challenge is establishing thought leadership in an overcrowded industry. We’ll be honest — that takes time.
We are talking strategic messaging, content design, expert communication, experience gathering, and… bucketfuls of optimism.
So yeah, it won’t happen overnight, but it is nevertheless possible and oh-so-worth-it! The best part? We are here to guide you till the end.
Expert speaking: What it is and how it helps
Expert speaking refers to communicating with experience and expertise in a language that your audience responds to. It means to lead conversations in your space. How? Basically… by knowing your sh*t.
Whether you’re trying to communicate with mid-aged executives in the tech industry or 20-something aspiring entrepreneurs, you need to approach your audience in a language that is characteristic of thought leadership.
Every authority figure or perceived leader across history (think Abraham Lincoln, Steve Jobs, Osho) has been known to exude a compelling aura of command and influence. They have distinct styles of speaking that inspire confidence and respect and motivate listeners to take action.
And this doesn’t pertain to the quality and tone of their voices or the words they use — their energetic and charismatic selves are visible even in their written content. Put together, all these form attributes of an expert persona.
If you wish to be recognized as an authority, you should match the language reminiscent of expert personalities.
But that’s not at all. First, you should know that expert speaking differs from one industry to another.
For instance, the tech world responds to a no-frills, straightforward tone, whereas, a chatty and friendly approach works best in the fashion industry. Even millennials, Baby Boomers, Gen Z respond to different speaking styles.
In capturing the right voice and style based on your niche and the audience demographic you are targeting, you succeed in building an expert persona and establishing thought leadership in your industry.
Any chance you think that’s what communication in general sounds like? Don’t coaches already know that? Aren’t they already speaking like that? Well, they aren’t. Read ahead, and we’ll show you why not.
What makes expert communication different from ordinary communication
Here is the key difference: expert communicators have real-life experience pertinent to their subjects; they know their profession in and out and will confidently tell you, “I’ve done this countless times before, and I’ll show you how you can do it too.”
In contrast, ordinary communicators carry research and book smarts. So, even though they possess the knowledge and can deliver it eloquently, what they are essentially saying is, “I’ve read/learned about this.”
They don’t have insider knowledge or a personal perspective to offer. Experts, on the other hand, possess a comprehensive view of the present and future industry trends and are dedicated to uncovering new insights in their industry — all of which translates to inimitable expertise.
Consider the following two statements. Which of them carries more weight?
“I’ll teach you how to master public speaking!”
“I’ll teach you how to overcome your fear of failure and speak like an authority to OWN every room.”
In the first one, you’re telling them you will help them “master public speaking” (kinda okay, but not as impactful). In the second one, you’re addressing the most common pain point people are plagued by when it comes to speaking on stage — fear of failure — and promising to help them overcome it to achieve their goals. How does one know that? Experience!
You might think you can pull high-sounding words from a thesaurus and familiarize yourself with the geek-speak to exaggerate your experience. Well, you won’t get too far. But, unfortunately, there’s no shortcut to success.
Remember, “experts are always made, not born.”
You see, expert speakers KNOW what they are saying, which makes their audience assign that element of authenticity and authority to their talks.
While many experts can possess cutting-edge ideas and insights, only a handful can inspire and influence massive crowds.
So, it is not just sharing insightful thoughts, experiences, and strategies that make experts stand apart from ordinary speakers. The difference also lies in how they express their thoughts and lead conversations.
Go on, pick any successful coach and evaluate their expert communication skills:
- Do they own their message and believe in it?
- Do they demonstrate inimitable expertise?
- Are they respectful and humble in their communication?
- Do they genuinely care about their audience?
- Are they able to spark interesting conversations? Do they demonstrate thought leadership?
- Do they possess an optimistic aura that inspires people to follow them?
We bet your answer was “yes” to all of the above!
Pretty accurate, right?
We know most leaders are bent on building a personal brand and ‘getting out there more’. But, unfortunately, most lack the necessary guidance and, thus, stay back.
Here’s helping you out with six strategies to develop a kickass expert persona.
1. OWN your message
This one’s simple. It’s for those of you who wish to be leaders and influencers in your industry but are currently just subject matter experts. This is us telling you that it’s time to own your message.
For example, a ton of beauty instructors can promise they’ll teach you the art of makeup, but Bobbi Brown’s goal is to help you enhance your beauty and feel confident in your skin — it doesn’t matter what color of eyes, skin, or hair you have, or what your age is.
THAT is her core value proposition — one that she is known and paid the big bucks for.
Similarly, Neil Patel‘s goal is “Helping you Succeed Through Online Marketing.” Everything he does and creates is rooted deeply in this core value, which reflects in his work and communication.
Whatever you’re trying to teach/communicate, it is important to believe in it and own it. This applies to both verbal and written communication: whether it is the content you put out, your courses, public appearances, and so on.
If you don’t believe in your message, you can’t possibly inspire others to follow you or hope to maximize the impact of your communication.
Ask yourself: What do you want people to know your brand for?
By this, we don’t mean reliability, trust, integrity, or any of the other vague attributes every brand aspires to.
We are referring to a logical and personal message that is uniquely yours, a core value proposition that highlights how you will help your students achieve results, one that makes you say, “I created this. No one can do what I do.”
That right there is the value you bring to the table.
2. Demonstrate inimitable expertise
What does it take to become the voice of authority? By offering invaluable knowledge to those around you and leading conversations — unique insights, intelligent opinions that signal that you’re an expert and know what you’re talking about.
Successful coaches are well-read and carry years of experience, so they can draw on their pasts, examine the present trends, and contribute to future growth — all of which help provide the full-scale and impactful view of their expertise.
For instance, a nutrition expert does not just possess knowledge of diets and recipes; they are also well-versed with the human body and overall health. Likewise, a neurobiology professor has plentiful knowledge of biology and other sciences.
As a result, they can present unique points of view that haven’t been put forward before.
The key is to go above and beyond with providing value to your audience. WOW them with your knowledge and insight, so they automatically turn to you for guidance.
We are not saying you should go ahead and chime in on every subject. Instead, strategically provide doses of information in relevant contexts to maximize the impact of your training.
This applies to every point of contact between you and your audiences, kay? It could be:
- Through your courses, seminars, conferences, or other in-person networking events where you provide value
- Across social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram where you indulge in data journalism (original research) pertaining to your industry to establish an authentic online presence
- Across high authority websites like Medium and other websites in your niche that accept guest articles
- When collaborating with other industry experts and influencers to discuss pertinent subjects, whether it is using live streams or affiliate marketing
The idea is to maintain a steady stream of readers or viewers on authoritative platforms.
Pro tip: Make sure you speak from personal experience when providing value; there is a degree of authority to it that can not be matched by second-hand knowledge. This is why you’ll always hear thought leaders saying stuff like “my research has revealed…” or “while working with a client a few years back…”
3. Command respect by giving it
How many leading coaches do you know that carry an obnoxious attitude and yet are insanely successful in their fields? Chances are, your answer is, “not many.”
None famous, at least. Usually, the arrogant and egoistic jerks don’t make it that far.
But it’s still surprising how often you come across coaches who seem like perfectly pleasant and charismatic human beings while delivering lectures but in person are downright off-putting. They display complete disregard towards customers outside of their professional interactions with them.
However, the smartest leaders know otherwise. They treat their customers like a friend who knows better. Whether it is a live appearance or an unexpected encounter, you will see that they demonstrate warmth and humility in how they talk, making them instantly likable.
Take any of Michelle Obama’s videos on YouTube and run your eyes over the comments below. You will find millions applauding her empathy and showering praises for the way she carries herself.
If you want to be considered above your competitors, you must direct the narcissism away from yourself to achieve the greater goal of establishing a revered professional presence.
Here’s how you can use humility as a weapon to win your audience’s trust and admiration:
- Listen intently to your customers
- Make sure you give credit where it is due
- Actively seek input, even if it is with a simple “how am I doing?”
- Be accessible when students need you
- Make it easy for them to communicate with you
4. Guide by posing valuable questions
This is a no-brainer and the quickest, most clever way to get your audience hooked from the get-go.
If you’ve attended live lectures, conferences, and speeches, you will know that public personalities do this all the time. They often begin their talks with a “raise your hands if you’ve…” or by simply posing a compelling question to draw in their audience’s attention.
For instance, Matthew Walker’s talk on “Why Sleep Matters” at Google begins with “How many hours of sleep did you get last night?”
(He is a professor of neuroscience at the University of California btw. Also, a public intellectual with profound knowledge on sleep and how it impacts human health.)
Even straightforward “yes” or “no” questions are pretty common.
And this does not just pertain to live appearances; pick any blog, and you will notice a similar pattern with experts inculcating thought-provoking questions throughout their pieces, encouraging leaders to analyze and expound on a subject critically.
Check out this exceptionally creative, scenario-based question by a fitness expert:
Well-timed questions foster creative thinking and make you appear confident. It is an effective communication tool that helps you steer the conversation in your favor, invites participation, and even ensures you glean insightful feedback.
In making your presentations conversational and inquisitive, you boost engagement and save yourself performance anxiety. It’s basically relieving yourself of the burden to carry forward the conversation all by yourself. Phew!
So, leverage questions all you can to master expert communication. For instance, a software expert teaching students how to build mobile applications can incorporate open-ended, rhetorical questions like “would you believe that close to 96% of the population already owns a mobile phone?” or simple polling questions like “how many of you have ever used a mobile phone to make an online purchase?” to encourage engagement.
Also, make it a point to ask thoughtful questions like “what specifically about the past attempts to solve this problem made you fail?” to get feedback and show your audience that you care and are committed to addressing their pain points.
Remember, the conversation needs to be two-way to maximize the impact of authoritative stature. So, encourage your students to ask needful follow-up questions as well.
5. Develop new interests to spark interesting conversations
“You’re only as interesting as the sum of all your experiences.”
Pick up any Tedx Talk and dissect it, and you will see that the most impactful speakers speak from personal experiences. Their talks are rife with deeply intriguing stories, facts, anecdotes, and experience-based inferences.
Stuff like “two years ago, while I was conducting behavioral research on baboons in South Africa…” or “I am currently reading this digital marketing book ‘Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger wherein…”
Listen to this soul-searching talk by Jon Jondai, where he reflects on his pensive journey towards sustainable living and fulfillment.
Tell us if it doesn’t motivate you to shun the needless hardships of your day-to-day lives and strive to live more sustainably.
To give you some perspective, Jon’s Pun Pun Center for Self Reliance offers an Eat Well Live Well course where people are taught simple techniques of seed saving, natural building to practice sustainable living.
Authority figures consciously or subconsciously insert these expertise-signaling, experiential bits and pieces to compel listeners or readers to associate them with thought leadership.
But how do they pull this off? What helps them build that aura of authority? How do they manage to stay so informed and educated?
Well, the majority of them are avid readers. They reach heights because they possess an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and consume it as their lives depended on it. Knowledge is power, remember?
Oh, and it’s not just books; talk shows, live debates, news reports, case studies, research papers — pretty much any credible source of information. Did you know that the famous Joe Rogan listens to podcasts while in the sauna? Yes, he’s said it himself!
The point being, to lead conversations in your arena, you need to approach your audience in a way that they will respond to you.
This includes exposing yourself to practical experiences, actively indulging and developing your interests — whether it is by taking courses, reading books, attending industry-relevant conferences, and so on. In this manner, you are well-positioned to offer unique insights and takeaways.
You can not just stay in your shell and bounce theorems back and forth if you are a mathematics coach. You can’t just hand your clients a diet chart and expect the moon if you are a nutrition expert. WRONG!
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that your knowledge alone will do the talking.
No matter how uneventful and mundane a subject is, you need to ensure that your audience is listening and absorbing every piece of knowledge you provide them. You need to build that rapport with your students and establish that aura of authority by giving them insight into your persona.
Remember, your expertise will only take you so far. It is your individual experiences that will make them STOP and LISTEN.
6. Always sound positive in your communication
This is a pretty obvious one. People always want to be surrounded by those who have a positive outlook towards life, are upbeat, and fill the room with their positive energy.
It’s one thing to own your message and believes in it, and a whole other world to make others believe in it too. Right? That’s exactly what thought leaders do!
We believe the Dalai Lama can help us achieve eternal peace. We believe Pep Guardiola can lead Manchester City to Champions League victory (and that too without a single striker, WTF!). We believe Neil Patel can take our Instagram account from 0 to 100,000.
Your students come to you because they want to BELIEVE and be INSPIRED. They want you to “fan their fire” and give it direction.
In the words of William Arthur Ward, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
Accomplish that, and you’re GOLDEN!
Take your expert knowledge and thought leadership to instill THAT unbounded optimism within your audience.
Use words like “yes, of course!”, “absolutely,” and “definitely” to instate trustworthiness and surety in your customers. We bet you anything they will keep coming back for more!
Now you have everything you need to develop into an expert person. As we said, it is the one and only way of ensuring your people follow your thoughts — and you.
So, start incorporating these expert tactics in your life right away and see your brand persona blossom beyond your dreams.