Credibility can help us believe in ourselves.
Credibility can help other believe in us.
The fear of not having Credibility can stop us from speaking altogether.
Are you Credible? Take a look at this list of Levels of Credibility and decide for yourself - because if you don't believe you're credible, it doesn't even matter if others DO.
Levels of Credibility
1. Celebrity Credibility - You've walked the walk. Up Mt. Everest, on the Moon. You've won the trophy, you've held the office, you've earned the money. You're famous, or just infamous. Bottom line - people want to hear you because they just want to be in the same room with you. Your content may or may not be directly related to your credibility, but as long as it is connected in some way, your content is elevated by your Credibility.
2. Survivor Credibility - You've survived cancer, a car accident, a plane crash. You survived the military. You've lived your life with a disability, or acquired one along the way, be it Parkinson's, Neurofibromatosis, or a Super-Deluxe Robot Leg. You survived abuse as a child or an adult. Bottom Line - you survived some extreme, though not necessarily unique, circumstance of life. Both the survival, and your willingness to speak about it, are your Credibility.
4. Educational Credibility - perhaps the most commonly used, yet ultimately weakest, form of credibility. You're a PhD, MD, MA, or any other of a myriad of educational degrees. Not to say they are meaningless. Academic Credibility has it's place. But that place is rarely in the hearts of your audience, unless it's combined with the one or more of the first three. In other words, I don't want to hear from a doctor about the latest surgical technique for brain surgery, I want to hear from a doctor whose USED the the latest surgical technique for brain surgery.
Many of the above examples are extreme - and it's often the way we think about Credibility. If we haven't climbed Mt. Everest, had our leg blown off in Iraq, or earned our way to Warren Buffet's dinner table, we're not credible enough.
That's the Big Lie. We are ALL credible. We just aren't credible on ALL things.
We are credible when we have done something the audience has not, something the audience aspires to, or something something the audience hasn't done as well. We are credible when we have knowledge, or a combination of knowledge and experience the audience does not.
Before you pick a speaking topic, do a credibility inventory. How much do you really know? What success have you had in that area? This can be empowering or discouraging, depending on how you approach it. First, don't compare yourself to others. There's always going to be someone with more knowledge, experience, and results than you. That's OK. Second, if you do feel you're falling short, treat it as a guideline for gaining more education, experience, and results.
Unless you're choosing to speak on something that is way off in left field - say, you're a single male who's done nothing but play video games his whole life and you want to go speak about cultivating successful romantic relationships - you're going to discover you do, in fact, have several items on the list that separate and elevate you above your average audience.
Remember too, that your audience will with self-select, so they want your information, or you be selected to speak by someone in authority, meaning they'll often believe they'll need your information.
The only other danger comes when we try to artificially enhance our credibility, and say we've done things we haven't. Like lying on a resume when you're hired as the football coach at Notre Dame. Or say your helicopter got hit by enemy fire in Iraq, when it was actually the helicopter in front of you. Misstating, or mis-remembering, our credibility, which leads to misrepresenting ourselves, will only lead to embarrassment at best, and a complete loss of respect, revenue, and future returns at worst.
You have either have enough authentic credibility or you don't. If you don't, get it, or change your topic. If you THINK you don't have ENOUGH credibility, you probably DO, unless you KNOW you don't have ANY credibility. Live a credibility building life, and in six months, you'll be even more credible than you are now. Take credit where credit is due, and build your assets as you grow your speaking career.
Don't let fear of a lack of credibility silence you. Go SPEAK - and Deliver!