Confidence Vs Competence — Public Speaking

One of my favorite sayings is that great speaking skills give you the illusion of competence.  The flip side:  Poor speaking skills give you the illusion of incompetence!  If your presentation skills are weak, you will probably appear less than competent even if you happen to be a master of the subject matter.

I received Rick Carruth’s Magic Roadshow Newsletter, January 2007 issue, with an article that drives home the connection between confidence and competence.  Rick includes a link to magician Darren Brown’s video who is performing a psychic demonstration for a group of strangers.  Darren admits in the introduction to the video that he is NOT a psychic.  But if you’re not familiar with his techniques, you’d probably say “Wow…this guy really has some psychic talent!”  On the other hand, if you’re a seasoned magician, you may have read a couple of books on Cold Reading (the performing skills that make it possible to LOOK like you’re a psychic).  If that were the case, you would realize that some fairly simple techniques give the performer the confidence to perform in a  believable fashion.  This confident performance by the magician leads the audience to think that the performer IS a competent psychic.  Confidence creates the illusion of competence. 

You can check out Rick’s newsletter, paragraph one, for a short piece on the art of cold reading with some interesting links.  It’s a great newsletter if you’re a magician, or exploring the possibility of taking up the art of magic, or if you are simply a speaker who likes to be exposed to information which helps you to think outside-the-box.  Subscribe at

When it comes to public speaking or delivering humor from the platform, since you’ve worked hard to become an expert on your subject matter, remember also the importance of sharpening your delivery skills.  Your platform speaking skills are the vehicle for delivering your message.  With the skills, polish and natural delivery (which does not happen naturally for most speakers), your message will ring true and your reputation will shine.  Taking the time to gain top-notch speaking skills is an investment that will pay off.