Who decides who is an expert?

I have always been a little addicted to learning.

I love to continually hone skills, extend my knowledge base and attend professional development events so I can be of better service to my clients. Even after 30 years in my area of expertise I still look for opportunities to grow my knowledge and skill base. This year I decided to finally finish my master’s research degree. A big decision for a busy professional. It almost felt a little self-indulgent to spend days hidden away reading, researching and writing about all the things I love.

I am now at the final stages of my thesis and although I have immersed myself in powerful presenting for over 30 years, my master’s research has been digging a little deeper into leadership communication and story. I look forward to sharing my research through my work in the coming months and years. So, why did I want to extend my knowledge and expertise? well I like to think I am an expert in my industry and an expert is always trying to stay current and relevant.  I also work with experts and I coach experts.  During my master’s studies though, there was much discussion and debate about what defines an expert and who I could reference during my research. It really got me thinking about the term expert and who decides who is an expert?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary and expert is ‘a person with a high level of knowledge or skill relating to a particular subject or activity’

And Wikipedia says ‘An expert is someone who has a prolonged or intense experience through practice and education in a particular field’  I do like this one

Many professionals, like speakers and educators, learn deep, very deep; they become recognised industry experts. You may have noticed the word ‘expert’ being loosely thrown about these days. Some argue that expertise come from lived experience and not by getting a ‘piece of paper’, others argue that years of study or a qualification proves you’re an expert. I am a solid believer it’s lots of both. Lived experience is essential but also studying the insights from others in your field opens your mind to different perspectives and views. It gives you the opportunity to critically analyse past and current theories and practices and to conduct your own research in your area of expertise.

There is also the concept of the 10,000-hour rule.  This is derived from the work of psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, who studied the way people become experts in their fields. Author Malcolm Gladwell popularised the concept in his book “Outliers. Many have criticised or debunked this theory like the co-author of the book Peak Performance Brad Stulberg. He stated psychological research indicates expertise is really developed based on the way you practice, rather than the time you devote. This makes much more sense to me.  Even so, the 10,000-hour rule is a great ‘check in’ on how much time you have devoted to honing your skills.

I have found my clients don’t like paying for speakers or trainers who only share what anyone can quickly find on google; clients pay for the extra insights or gold nuggets experts share. They also pay for the way this gold is communicated and contexualised saving individuals and organisations time and money. Experts spend their life (or a large proportion of it) researching and exploring their area of expertise so you don’t have to, and they love nothing more than to share their findings with others.

Are you an expert? 

What have you been studying or exploring lately
to better serve your clients?

Next time you hear the word ‘expert’ what will you think? Are they really an expert? Are they a fake expert? Or are they an expert on a lifelong journey mastering their expertise along the way.

Paula Smith
Your expert in Presentation Intelligence ®
Keynote speaker CSP, master trainer, author and business leadership coach.

Paula is also the CEO of The Global Institute of Training and Presenting. GITP contracts many experts across a diverse range of industries and topics.

Feel free to reach out if you are looking for an expert to help you to achieve your personal, professional or organisational goals. Or reach out if you are an expert needing help to communicate/present your expertise.