How Speakers Win the Trust of Their Audience

A new book shares practical tips to help you become a credible presenter with a four-point model.
May 08, 2012

The secret of speaking effectively is credibility, according to a new book by Bruna Martinuzzi. Using the practical tips in this book, speakers will learn how to enlist the trust of their audience by being genuine and improve their presentations.

Presenting With Credibility: Practical Tools and Techniques for Effective Presentations echoes one of the most important life lessons I learned from my father. He told me to "always consider the source."

Martinuzzi defines credibility as "the quality of being believable or trustworthy. It is not a characteristic that we can claim for ourselves ... our audience decides whether we are credible."

She distills the body of existing thought on credibility, from the wisdom of Aristotle to the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer. Martinuzzi, who is the CEO of Clarion Enterprises, constructs a simple presentation model composed of four key elements.

Expertise and Competence

"Expertise includes your ability to handle a variety of speaking situations," Martinuzzi writes. "Your audience will judge you on your knowledge of the core material—that part of the presentation that addresses their needs, the reason they came to listen to you. They are not there to evaluate how smart you are or how much knowledge you have accumulated on the topic."

Expertise and competence are the key elements of credibility.

One of my favorite techniques to foster competence is The Palace Method, a helpful memory aid that involves three steps.

  1. Assemble a sequential list of concepts that you want to cover in your presentation.

  2. Visualize your house, office or any other place that you know well.

  3. Place each of your concepts in a different room (or in a different part of one room).

"The key is to visualize each concept in an unusual framework," advises Martinuzzi.


"Authenticity is about being the best version of the real you," writes Martinuzzi. "It’s your genuineness, trustworthiness and goodwill. It’s how truly likable you are to the audience."

Martinuzzi provides a list of 14 brutal questions. If you can answer "yes" to all of them, your audience will see you as trustworthy. Here are three of the toughest.

  • Are you making honest and true statements, or are you sugarcoating your words?

  • Are you avoiding the use of business speak to “spin” negative situations as positive?

  • Are you giving due credit to other people’s ideas?

Personal Presence

"This is something that people notice about you when you enter a room or start to speak," writes Martinuzzi. "The presence of mind and strength to confidently deal with whatever comes your way during a presentation are the mark of a credible presenter."

Martinuzzi highlights the six features of a speaker with presence:

  • proper posture
  • sustained eye contact
  • effective pausing
  • appropriate dress
  • adaptability
  • composure


"This is the energy that you bring to your presentation—your vitality," Martinuzzi writes. "It is energy not only in your comportment but also in your language—your facility with the pearls of communication—metaphors, analogies and storytelling. Above all, it is your passion and your emotional engagement with the audience and with your material."

A chapter of Presenting With Credibility called "Icing on the Cake" gives presenters invaluable tips and resources for using metaphors and analogies.

But my favorite chapter is "When Things Go Wrong, Don't Go With Them." You'll find tips on a range of situations from recovering a corrupted PowerPoint file to handling a poor audience turnout. The chapter is full of the things speakers and presenters often don't even think about, but at some point they'll wish they had.

Martinuzzi's four-point credibility model is easy to understand and remember. But, "it will take your entire career to practice it," she says. "When you understand and incorporate all of the components of the model into your presentations, you rise like a pyramid—and like a pyramid, you are on solid footing."

If you're a speaker, make Presenting With Credibility part of your arsenal.

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