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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Build Your Cred

In a previous entry, I discussed the importance of getting to the core of an idea and prioritizing the most important information.  As it turns out, this isn't always effective.  In instances when you need to look credible, prioritizing and shortening is not the best idea because it can crumble your credibility.  If you are dealing with an audience that might be suspicious of your expertise and credentials, one way to counteract this is to craft a message that is thorough and full of vivid details.

This strategy makes sense on an intuitive level.  Consider the last time you heard someone speak and how impressed you were with their knowledge.  More likely than not, the individual that was able to provide the most details was probably seen as more credible.  When someone provides a lot of details, the audience gets the (valid) impression that the individual is well-read and he has done thorough research on the topic that he's discussing.  The presenter could potentially be a great liar and be able to give a false impression of expertise. But, even then, his strategy has worked because he has effectively used vivid details to prove his supposed credibility.

Consider this example of a consultant giving advice to a residential homeowner or a building operator on how go green when it comes to operations and maintenance.  Contrast these two approaches that the consultant can take to prove his expertise and credibility.

Situation A)
Consultant: One of the primary areas to focus on for indoor issues is improving air quality.  There are many ways this can be done.

Situation B)
Consultant: One of the primary areas to focus on for indoor issues is improving air quality.  This can be done by cleaning your air conditioning and heating filters every month, making sure your filters have a "MERV" rating of 8 and higher, and using seals and coatings with low VOC content.

The first message is clear and understandable but it definitely does not establish credibility because the consultant hasn't said anything that seems like specialized, technical, or "insider" knowledge.  He is lacking any real details that would prove his expertise or hint at his extensive knowledge.  The second message is more technical and confusing for someone not familiar with indoor air quality issues.  However, this is not a problem because the priority was to establish credibility.  Once credibility is established, the consultant can continue to simplify and define his terms and break down technical jargon.

Being thorough and detailed right off the bat can throw people off and muddle your message but sometimes this is necessary if the primary goal is to gain credibility and win your audience over.  This is especially important for individuals that don't have years of experience to support them.  These people have to prove their worth from the very beginning and show their audience (which includes potential clients) that they are knowledgeable, dedicated, and competent enough to get the job done.

What is this image showing?  I have no idea. But, it sure looks detailed and I am more likely to trust the person that made it than someone who isn't able to create and explain such schematics.

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