Executive Speaking Weblog

Communication – the future of business

How Do I Speak Without Sounding like a ‘Know-it-all’?

Posted by Presentation Skills on August 11, 2008

A client recently asked me, ‘How do I share my successes without looking like a know it all?’


This was a fair question. Peter had taken a business from near bankruptcy to one of the best performing businesses in his industry. Out of 1300 businesses, he was ranked 27th and is the only business that was growing while all others were shrinking. He was concerned that if he stood up and said ‘this is what we have achieved and this is how I did it’ he would sound like a know-it-all. And would be right.


How could he overcome this problem?


One of the best ways to overcome this problem is to change the focus of your message. Don’t focus on what you did, but rather focus on the process you implemented and what it achieved; make the process the hero.


Let me explain.


Peters’ industry had a massive legislation change that caused a big drop (15-18%) in revenue across all businesses except his. He experienced 10% growth. The reason he had the growth was he set himself up for the growth and told his team to expect it.


But if he stood up at his industry meetings and spoke about his successes he would be seen as lucky or a know-it-all.


So Peter and I worked on making the processes the hero and not him. We identified the processes he set up that enabled his success. He then spoke about the success that process had. This change – though subtle – was enough to take the focus off him. It was still clear that he instigated and drove the process but it was not about him being the hero. The process was now the hero.


How can you apply this in your work? Instead of telling others what you have done, tell them what the processes you implemented have achieved. Tell the benefits that have been gained by using the process. This will take the focus away from you being the hero and enable you to share your successes with out being a know it all.




Darren Fleming

Australia’s Public Speaking Coach

Speak Motivate and Lead: How Real Leaders inspire others to follow

2 Responses to “How Do I Speak Without Sounding like a ‘Know-it-all’?”

  1. Lisa Fomin said

    You’re so right, Darren! Most of the audience “turn off” in that part of the speech when the speaker starts bragging about their achievements… especially if they never get to explain how they actually got there. On several occasions I’ve paid money to listen to a “How To…” speech that never even mentioned anything about the actual method of doing what the speaker was so good at. Total waste of money and time!

  2. magicianmelbourne said

    I prefer to get people to learn from my mistakes. Stories about failing and learning are more funny, engaging and worthwhile then those about being a winner!

    Melbourne Speaker

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