Your credibility as a speaker is so critical that if you don’t have it — if the audience doesn’t find you credible — you might as well stop speaking.
Credibility, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. For any number of reasons, consciously and unconsciously, people decide whether and how much they trust you. They often make snap judgments based on first impressions, which they then seek to confirm or to revise (mostly to confirm) after further experience.
Your credibility depends on three factors.
- Your Personal Credibility
Are you reliable, honest, sincere? Are you a person of your word? Are you, in a word, trustworthy? (Trustworthiness and likability are not the same thing, but they are often linked in people’s minds. If they don’t like you, they’ll find reasons to distrust you. If they like you, they’ll tend to trust you.)
- Your Expertise
Do you know what you’re talking about? Do you have the requisite experience, knowledge, and insight? Do you present yourself and your ideas credibly?
- Your Audience’s Judgment
Their values, their likes and dislikes, their knowledge and experience, their prejudices are what ultimately determine your credibility to them. What makes you credible to one audience may make you incredible to another.