How to Become a Sought-After Expert
Ever watched an “expert” on TV and thought, “That dude has no idea what he’s talking about. They should be interviewing me instead! I can tell them how it really is.” You’re right. They should be interviewing you. We’re going to make that happen.
I’m going to share how you can become a sought-after expert. When you do, doors will fly open. The media will seek your opinion. Groupies will profess their love. Leaders will pay to hear your wisdom. Nothing says “I’m an expert” like being paid just to show up.
Becoming an expert starts with overcoming the three expert myths. These are the myths that keep people reading the headlines rather than making them:
Myth No. 1: You have to have a fancy college degree. Not true. Tons of experts don’t have any degrees at all. I don’t have a college degree, yet my books are required reading in colleges and corporations across the globe. Your expert star will rise based on the results you create, not where you went to school—and you have star potential written all over your Facebook page.
Myth No. 2: You have to be “flown in” to be an expert. Again, not true. Nowadays a Twitter account and monthly webinar will cement your status across time zones. In fact, many people now assess a person’s expertise by the size of their social media following. When your social media following grows, you instantly become an “expert” in social media, too. That makes you a double threat. Time to raise your fees.
Myth No. 3: You have to write a book to be an expert. True 30 years ago, but not now. When was the last time you bought a book and read the entire thing? Most authors today would gladly trade their book rights for an email list with 50,000 addresses of people who will actually read their email—and when you have an email list that large, publishers will pay a professional to write your autobiography for you. Now that is the true sign of an expert: a ghostwriter!
In all seriousness, those three myths derail a lot of people from unlocking their expert potential. The reality is that becoming an expert has never been easier and faster if you know what to do. Below are the five steps that will make you an expert in any field. Trust me, I know firsthand.
I grew up in a small Texas town with cows instead of neighbors. I have no rich uncle or extraordinary intelligence. However, I’ve been featured as an expert on 60 Minutes, 20/20, The Today Show, The View, The Early Show and dozens more. In fact, several years ago I remember being asked to deliver the keynote speech at a big conference. I tried to rent a car only to learn I was too young—so my mom drove me. Seriously.
Five Proven Steps to Become a Sought-After Expert
1. Study the masters. This is the heavy lifting when it comes to building your expertise. The key is to know what’s already been said so you can formulate your own opinion. This is also where you learn the intricacies of your topic so when a smarty-pants in the crowd asks, “What do you think about Dr. So-and-So’s writing?” you can respond with an insightful answer and plug your own e-course. In general, start by studying the work of the 10 most influential people in your desired subject. Specifically seek out the influencers who have differing opinions. The divergence of thought creates an opportunity for you.
2. Find a problem or opportunity where you have an opinion that is different or adds value to others’. This is critical. Having a well-developed opinion is what separates you from everyone else. Contrarian views tend to get the fastest attention, so stand out in the crowd to get noticed. Even if people are disagreeing with your opinion, they’re still talking about you. That is your first big step in becoming an expert. Look out, Google, you’re about to get indexed!
For example, I started out talking about how Gen Y buys differently and why this was creating a problem and opportunity for traditional companies. My expertise developed from taking a clear, measurable problem and finding novel ways to solve it. My solutions were based on personal experience, extensive data review and being a part of the generation I talk most about. You can do the same in your own industry or niche. The key is to keep your opinion focused on helping others solve their urgent problems. Becoming an expert is all about giving value to others first.
3. Test your opinion in the field. Study the results you create and refine your opinion. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Once you’ve seen the results in action in different situations, you can be confident and passionate with your opinion. You’ll also find out if you need a new opinion.
4. Get a megaphone and high-speed Internet. You can’t help people until they know you exist. The three places to start: trade associations, local media and social media. All three of these put you in front of the people you’re trying to reach. You can engage trade associations by guest-writing an article, delivering a webinar or presenting a workshop at their meetings. The more buzz that builds around you and your work, the sooner people will start paying to hear from you. The same approach goes for traditional and social media. Give people something new or different to talk about and they will run with it.
My entire career started with a 50-word write-up in a local newspaper. That article led to a speech near my garage apartment; that speech led to more presentations, and two years later I was on The Today Show. No publicist. No branding consultant. Just a message I knew about, believed in and wanted to share to help others.
5. Call yourself an expert. Nothing makes you an expert like self-proclamation. And you deserve it! You’ve studied the field. You’ve tested your opinion. You’ve shared it in writing and in public spaces. You, my friend, are an expert!
Once you start referring to yourself as an expert, so will everyone else. A friend once asked me, “What’s the difference between a $5,000 expert and a $25,000 expert?” Answer: $20,000. Now go buy your domain name.