Brag and Name Drop: How to Project Credibility as Workplace Meetings Move Online

fizkes/Shutterstock.com

What you say carries more weight than ever.

COVID-19 has altered nearly every aspect of American life, including the workplace. For millions of Americans, the kitchen or the living room now doubles as the office and conference room.

This workspace shift, likely to last long past the pandemic, offers some conveniences, of course, but it also teems with potential pitfalls.

Traditional tactics for achieving credibility in presentations – audience interaction and engaging body language, for example – are not accessible when you appear on a laptop or smartphone screen.

Suddenly, what you say carries more weight than ever.

As an English language studies professor, I wanted to understand how presenters build credibility, so I analyzed the transcripts of 30 panel discussions at the Brookings Institution in 2019 to glean the verbal strategies used by foreign affairs experts. While I have carefully dissected these strategies as a specialist in public speaking skills, they boil down to a simple message for anyone delivering a presentation via a digital screen: Brag and name drop.

11 Strategies for Building Credibility

Here are specific examples of the many techniques I detected.

1. Prestigious affiliation: Establishes ties to a prestigious organization. Kathleen Hicks, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, does that here: “…the conclusion of the commission on which I serve, the National Defense Strategy Commission, and certainly the work I do in my job at CSIS…”

2. Prestigious title: Names impressive position titles. Yael Tamir, a professor at the University of Oxford, stated, “I was a minister of immigration (in Israel) about 12 years ago…”

3. Disciplinary expertise: Highlights area of professional expertise. Suzanne Maloney, deputy director of foreign policy at Brookings, said, “From my perspective, as someone who works on Iranian internal politics and economics, and on the U.S.-Iran relationship…”

4. Professional identity: Claims affiliation with a professional community. Tamir, the Oxford professor, stated, “It all starts with the definition as we know, as we political theorists know…”

5. Professional experience: Underscores the breadth or impact of professional experience. Jeannine Scott, of the nonprofit Constituency for Africa, emphasized a résumé few have: “If you’ve engaged with the Continent as I have for over 30 years now…”

6. Professional accomplishments: Highlights career achievements, as Lynn Rusten, a vice president at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, did: “What’s interesting is the original START Treaty, which I also helped negotiate…”

7. Educational experience: Mentions educational institution attended, area studied or degree earned. Adam La Reau, a Navy veteran, said the following: “I went to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy…”

8. Self-citation: Cites one’s own public comments. Brett McGurk, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, stated: “I was on record in 2013 about this rising threat and I testified…”

9. Prominent connections: Mentions interactions with prominent individuals, as McGurk did: “And walking into a meeting with President Obama and the national security team, I got a phone call from a very senior Iraqi official who said…”

10. Professional reputation: Shows that others seek their expertise, like Jung Pak, a senior fellow at the Center for East Asia Policy Studies: “During the Fire and Fury days (President Trump’s threat against North Korea in 2017), I got lots of phone calls from friends from New York, to the Midwest, to L.A. wondering about whether they should go on their business trip…”

11. Personal background: Discloses religion, nationality, ethnicity or other personal characteristics. Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at Brookings, said: “This was a very minoritarian take on Islam, and in my view as a Muslim myself, a perverted one.”

Using the Strategies

These strategies were typically used as additional information within a sentence. For example, if Maloney, the senior fellow at Brookings, were to cut her disciplinary expertise in the following sentence – the phrase within the commas – it would still make rational sense: “From my perspective, as someone who works on Iranian internal politics and economics and on the U.S.-Iran relationship, we are coming at the end of a long period of limbo.”

Maloney avoids sounding arrogant by not featuring her disciplinary expertise in a separate sentence, an important point for those who wish to build credibility – but not sound pretentious.

Creating Community: ‘We See’

Speakers often used the expression “we see” to deepen affiliation with an expert community and make nonbiased observations. In this excerpt, Bilyana Petkova, a fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, illustrates her insider information about the data privacy field: “So, in the data privacy field, we see how this dynamic has played out a role in the E.U., where the first data privacy statute was adopted in the German locality of Hassan…”

Using “we” rather than “I” helps speakers relate their observations to those of experts and reduce perceptions that they are sharing a biased view.

Elevating Stature: ‘If You’

Speakers often emphasized exclusive knowledge or professional experience by using the phrase “if you.”

Dennis Wilder, managing director of the U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues at Georgetown University, said: “One of the things to understand if you haven’t been involved in a presidential visit to a place like Beijing…” With this phrase, he builds his stature by pointing to his prestigious experience.

Panelists drew this expert-novice distinction in other ways, too. They emphasized familiarity with current events, for example, with phrases such as “If you look at what the intelligence community and the Department of Defense have been saying” and “If you look at the U.S. and Russian statements… this week.”

It’s not just the knowledge we hold that builds credibility – how we communicate that knowledge is also imperative.

With companies like Facebook paving the way for permanent remote work, Americans will be forced to rethink how we achieve credibility in workplace presentations. Amid the uncertainty created by the pandemic, what’s certain is that verbal communication strategies will become even more critical to our perceived competence and success.

Lisa Leopold is an associate professor of English language studies at The Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey at Middlebury.

The ConversationThis article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.