Many years ago, when I was a new engineer, I felt that way. I was assigned to work on a special project, part of a much larger effort. The other engineers all knew more than I did. So did the guys in the shop. Even the secretaries knew more about the paperwork.
And then, two weeks into the project, people started calling me the “expert.” I was no expert and it bothered me that other people called me that.
I mentioned my discomfort with the “expert” label to a more seasoned coworker.
He laughed and said, “If you know more than someone else, you ARE an expert.”
It was an epiphany. Expertise is relative. While I might not have felt like an expert, I was more expert in that particular area than anyone else.
When you are speaking, remember that on your topic (which may be related to your formal education, your self-studies or your experience), you can speak as an expert. You just have to know more than your audience!
Now that you have that mindset, here are a few tips to speak with confidence in your area of expertise:
1. Stay current. Update your knowledge base with current developments in your field. Subscribe to a magazine in your field. Read a book or blogs by other experts. Jot down notes to review later.
2. Create and distribute information on your topic. Here’s a sneaky idea—use a blog to write about things you want to have greater expertise in. Learn. Apply. Blog about it. That’s what I did with this blog. I wrote about things I knew about, but also studied my topic and wrote about things I learned along the way.
Talk about your subject often. Find like-minded people to discuss your subject with. Professional associations can be good for this. Talking about your subject casually will increase your facility with getting the material from your brain to your mouth.
4. Practice explaining it different ways. When you are preparing a speech, try to think of multiple ways of explaining your concept. Try them out. Pick the one you think is best for the audience, but if you get that “I’m confused” look from your audience, you have an alternate explanation available.
5. Play 20 questions. What are the top 20 questions people want answers to for your topic? Ask people, if you don’t know. Practice answering.
6. Teach your subject. If at all possible find a way to teach a class or workshop on your subject. It will help you remember what it was like to not know as much as you now do.
7. Don’t Do a Data Dump. Don’t feel that you have to tell the audience everything you know. Tell them what they need to know to accomplish the objectives of your presentation. Ruthlessly take out information that is extraneous to your point. Doing so will leave more time for greater engagement with examples, stories, case studies, etc. And, if you happen to forget a point, or end up with more time, then you have extra material.
Know your material for confidence (and credibility!).