I read a piece on Quartz about how people speak up for themselves “and stay likable.” The tip that caught my attention was this: “Another time we feel more confident speaking up is when we have expertise. Expertise gives us credibility. When we have high power, we already have credibility. We only need good evidence. When we lack power, we don’t have the credibility. We need excellent evidence.”
This struck me as the answer to so many things. I am not great at speaking up for myself—which is why I was reading that piece—but I do speak up when I know I’m in my zone of expertise. Furthermore, this is basically the answer at least 50 percent of the questions I’m asked by students and readers.
How did you come up with your book idea?
How did you get people to talk to you for this book/article?
How did you get a book deal?
How did you get so confident about speaking in front of large audiences?
How did you get so smooth at giving TV interviews?
How did you write that piece so fast?
How did you get that assignment?
The answer to all of these is the same: I learned something—pop culture overall, TV history and business specifically, The Mary Tyler Moore Show/Seinfeld/Sex and the City even more specifically—really, really well. Not like the way a normal person enjoys pop culture or Seinfeld or television, but way beyond that. So my ideas come out of that intimate knowledge, people trust me because of that intimate knowledge. I used to claim to be terrified of public speaking because of one bad high school English class experience, but it’s easy to talk to crowds when you know what you’re talking about, and it’s easy to talk to TV cameras then, too. It’s easy to dash off a piece at lightning speed if you know your stuff.
I’m not saying all of this is effortless. But learning something really, really, really well is a good first step.