Building Speaker Credibility with Support Sources

When you make a point, be it a major one or perhaps a sub-point in the course of your speech, I believe it’s extremely prudent to back it up with materials and sources that will give it credibility. Such support sources have the power to add authority to what you’re saying and give weight to the points that you’re making. The employment of these support sources can be a great ally in helping you obtain a certain gravitas on stage, as opposed to you appearing to speak without the facts to bolster what you profess. So below, I list a number of ways to add support in order to make your points believable.

You might make a point during the course of your speech, “The environment today is in bad shape.” Well, that’s a very general point. But if you’re detailing it down and adding credibility, you might say, “The environment today is in bad shape compared to what it was thirty years ago. Dr. Irving Smith, a climatologist at Harvard University conducted a two year study and published his findings in the June 2007 Journal of Environmental Resources. And I quote, ‘such-and-such-and-such-and-such’ un-quote”. Now, you’ve just given the point you made some suitable support and added credibility because you offered several support sources. You cited a study that was done, who the author was, his academic affiliation, the name of the journal and the date the journal came out.

This is not dissimilar to a court of law where an attorney makes a point and then has to bolster his arguments by either producing some kind of substantiated documentation or getting somebody up on the witness stand to support his/her side of the case. They call that a “credible witness”. So the whole rationale, depending on the defense or the prosecuting attorney, is that reasonable doubt has to be dissolved. The reasonable doubt that might creep into the minds of your audience will be dissolved because you’re adding credibility to the point you’re making.

I will always say to my students or clients after they assert something in a speech, “Well, that’s an interesting point you’re making, but the audience is going to sit there and say to themselves, ‘Oh, yeah? Prove it’”. You should always have in the back of your mind whenever you make a point; “Did I prove it?” “How can I prove what I’m saying so that I’m impinging even more on my audience?” By giving examples of what you mean you lend credibility to your presentation as well as by citing facts, figures and statistics. Incorporating visual aids that show statistical breakdowns over time, pie charts and illustrations (a picture says a thousand words) can all be enormously helpful in substantiating your points. Even defining a word can aid in clarification or in supporting your argument.

I happen to love the use of stories to give weight to points being made, because stories are examples of your own personal experience—you were there and you went through it. The audience would say, “Oh, he was there. He’s now defining exactly what he means by his own experience.” That also adds credibility.

One may in this process, appropriately cite an authority or authorities, quotes, details of journals and/or authors. Getting as much testimony, let’s say, to show by reference that the point you’re making is supported by something of substance, breeds validity or believability.

Testimonials and analogies can be wisely used to give weight to your words, while the usage of historical background can be an effective means of bridging time and supporting your position—“Ladies and gentleman, by history this is proven true. And I’ll give you an example; Back two-hundred-some years ago, such-and-such…”

The bottom line for all of the above, as I re-iterate, is that the purpose of having support sources is to build “credibility”, which is one of the five C’s of Commanding Qualities. When you add “caring”, “comfort”, “confidence”, and “charismatic” to this credibility-factor, your audience is going be sitting there saying, “I really trust this speaker. I do believe this person.” Once you’ve established credibility along with the other C’s of commanding an audience, you’ve got yourself a full and complete performance where you’ve moved your audience in the direction of your intended call to action.

Joe Yazbeck, Founder, President
Prestige Leadership Advisors
727 489 2349