Building Credibility to Persuade Your Audience in Public Speaking

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  • 0:01 Building Credibility
  • 0:32 What Is Credibility?
  • 1:55 Types of Credibility
  • 4:37 Gaining Credibility
  • 7:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cathryn Jackson

Cat has taught a variety of subjects, including communications, mathematics, and technology. Cat has a master's degree in education and is currently working on her Ph.D.

Building credibility is an important component of your speech. Without credibility, your audience members won't trust what you have to say! This lesson will teach you about the different types of credibility and how to build credibility in your speech.

Building Credibility

If you think about it, you are constantly being bombarded by persuasive strategies. Many of these strategies depend on the ethos, or credibility, of certain people to persuade you to buy a product, sign a petition, do business with a certain company, and so on. You'll see companies use credibility in the form of celebrity endorsements, doctors' or dentists' recommendations, or testimony from people that have experienced the benefits of a product or an excellent service. These are just a few examples.

In this lesson, you will learn about credibility, the types of credibility, and strategies for gaining credibility in a speech.

What is Credibility?

Credibility is the characteristic of being trustworthy. If the audience can't trust you, then they won't believe you. Credibility is often related directly to the audience's perception of the speaker's competence and character.

First, the audience must believe that you are a competent speaker - that you are capable of creating valid arguments and sound reasoning. You can establish credibility with your audience by mentioning your expertise in the particular field in which you are speaking. Credibility can also refer to the reputation of the speaker. If you have a positive reputation, or are an expert in the topic area of your speech, then that can help establish credibility in your speech.

Reputation doesn't just mean you are an expert in the field, however. If the speaker has a poor reputation, or does not appear to be trustworthy, then the audience will be less likely to listen. The character of a speaker is also related to the credibility of the speaker. This means you will have to watch your demeanor towards people before and after you speak. If you are rude to the hostess of the event or act stressed out in front of a classmate, then you will lose credibility with your audience.

Types of Credibility

Each speaker has different types of credibility. For example, if you go to a technology conference to hear a keynote speaker, you can bet the speaker has some sort of credentials in technology. If you are listening to a classmate give a speech, you may find that you have learned to trust this classmate and value his or her speeches. There are three types of credibility:

  • Initial
  • Derived
  • Terminal

Initial credibility is the credibility an individual has before beginning his or her speech; this is mostly based on the reputation and credentials of the speaker, if they are known to the audience. You can remember initial credibility by thinking about the initials in your name. If someone asks you for your initials, they are asking for the first letters in your name, right? Initial credibility is the first credibility a speaker has with an audience. If you are speaking in front of classmates with whom you are unfamiliar, then you probably have very little initial credibility. Your initial credibility will come from how nervous you appear to be, how prepared you are, and even how you are dressed.

Derived credibility is the credibility an individual has developed while delivering a speech; the quality of the speech and the professionalism of the speaker creates this credibility. Think about the word 'derived.' The dictionary definition of this word means 'to take or get something from' or 'to get something from a source.' In this case, your credibility is coming from the speech that you give. For speakers that have no initial credibility, derived credibility can be very important. Not only do you experience the concept of derived credibility in public speaking, but also in the case of job interviews, where your only initial credibility may be your resume or contacts.

Terminal credibility is the credibility an individual has gained or lost after delivering a speech. Think of terminal credibility as more of the lasting impression that an audience has of a speech and a speaker. This is different from derived credibility because terminal credibility lasts long after derived credibility. For example, if there is a speaker that you really like and has high initial credibility, then the speaker gives a poor speech, the derived credibility from the speech may be quite low. This will change your impression of the speaker and may lower the overall credibility that you have of the speaker. However, just because a speaker gave one bad speech, if he or she has high initial credibility, the one bad speech won't completely ruin his or her credibility. This is where terminal credibility comes in - your impression of the speaker may be altered beyond the initial credibility, but not as low as the derived credibility.

Gaining Credibility

Now that you understand the different types of credibility, let's discuss how you can gain credibility during your speech. There are a few ways you can do this:

  • Establish a credibility position
  • Establish common ground
  • Use of supporting materials
  • Language
  • Delivery

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