Rise of The Instant Expert: 16 Tell-Tale Signs

Once upon a time… we listened to someone on stage and we trusted what they were saying. We believed in their experience, their integrity, and their reputation. When we read a published work we attributed expertise and a more profound level of understanding on the topic. Disappointment was rare.

Those usually trustworthy talking heads of the past weren’t perfect, but generally, they were considered reliable and able to deliver straight-forward facts without pomp or pageantry.

Now, anyone can and does claim that they are the expert on just about anything, especially with the impacting influence of social media.

It’s harder to sift through all the noise and arrive at what’s really relevant, or just a well-researched observation for further analysis. Those with limited experience, hardly any history, and questionable credibility are standing on their live or virtual soapboxes owning the show, and it’s practically impossible to tell the difference.

I’m not an expert. I also have nothing against capitalizing on something that brings satisfaction to you or others. The question is whether or not these individuals are causing any long-term damage to the various professions in which they purportedly participate.

I think the answer is, yes.

One of my main clients reported that her industry began to suffer in terms of market demand — but most importantly, public confidence — after weekend courses in her field started popping up offering to not just fully qualify students, but offer professional indemnity and personal liability insurance to its graduates. The organizations in question then directly refer the newly-hatched experts to their tens of thousands of subscribers.

When trust-specific professions, such as my client’s, traditionally require years of training and assessment, it makes you wonder how a weekend course graduate’s skills and service actually compare. And… exactly what kind of insurance company issues bulk policies to newbies? Are they even fully aware of the implications?

The instant expert phenomenon has also been connected to the surge in passive income idealism. Passive income is received on a regular basis and requires little effort to maintain. Again, not against this at all, if done sensibly and ethically.

These new experts make it difficult to decide which authors, speakers and coaches to explore, which books to buy, podcasts and webinars to subscribe to, and which blogs to read and follow. Credible expertise on a topic is harder to verify and establish. Frankly, many claims to fame are inflated woe-to-wow stories. Do a quick review of random LinkedIn profiles to see what I mean.

Here are some points to help you decide who’s walking the walk, not just talking the talk

‘Instant experts’ will

  1. Typically proclaim themselves as such, using tawdry monikers like famous, renowned, King, Queen, leader, guru, and master.
  2. Assert authority without the backing of real-world proof (see my previous point about LinkedIn; many don’t list career experience before a certain recent point in time).
  3. Most have a trauma-based backstory to tout, reveling in their near demise before picking themselves up (often via the same system they’re trying to peddle) and succeeding against all odds in a bid to prove a point. (Note: Historically, there have been many genuine examples of this, WITH the backing of experience and credibility.)
  4. What is also the case is that the expertise and credibility are substituted by the backstory; it becomes the hook that attracts people to their ranks.
  5. Build their tribe on the backbone of roughly-shared experiences but often have no real empathy for anyone else’s plight but their own.
  6. Surround themselves with ‘like- (hive) -minded people’ and will often band that self-same term in their profiles as must-haves for success (after all, “… it’s all about who you know around here”).
  7. Initially, offer to help but all invariably results in a hefty or hidden cost.
  8. Take on endless guest speaker engagements ­– that are more about them and less about the topic at hand — which may be poorly articulated and dull. (The upgrade to this is overcharging the organiser of the event or imposing last-minute small-print deals.)
  9. Be quite pushy when it comes to the hard- or up-sell, often hounding after you politely decline… repeatedly.
  10. Become members of numerous networking groups, sometimes talking their way into another’s to take charge in some way.
  11. Associate with and drop the legacy theme (e.g., “I don’t want this to be ‘just’ about me, I mean, it all ‘starts’ with me but I want this to go further”, etc.).
  12. Make it impossible to keep the conversation about anyone else but themselves.
  13. Post endless pieces on social media, relating poorly thought-out messages based solely on their own narrow-minded experiences. These sometimes reveal their true nature (by accident), but they’re so wrapped up in themselves that they don’t even notice when they’re doing their reputations more harm than good.
  14. Not bother excessively with grammar or spell-checking when posting.
  15. Sell solution systems that can up-sell into the $$$$$$s! These systems are usually one-size-fits-all and they will do an astonishing job of convincing everyone that theirs is different from the rest, debunking anyone who challenges them as “not really wanting to succeed”.
  16. Piggy-back off the successes of others to bump up their own.
  17. Ignore the first rule about social engagement which is simply engagement. There’s more emphasis on gathering as many friends or followers as possible, as opposed to genuinely getting to know any of them.

The next time you consider following, liking, friending or paying for anyone that promises to teach you how to make your life better in some way, do a little research first. If you can’t find substantial genuine intel on them, if they don’t have the typical level of training you’d expect in their field, or if anything at all strikes you as too good to be true, the likely reality is that it is.

I’ll leave you with the wise words of speaker, trainer, creator of ‘10K Speeches’ and non-expert, Sean Stephenson:

“I am only an expert on one thing and that’s how to be me. And I do it well!”

Andrea Luquesi Scott likes to make people content, in both senses of the word.

Part of the Australian and international marketing and publishing tribes for more than 20 years, she is particularly well-known for her abhorrence of the misuse of commas and apostrophes.

She continues to rage diligently against the machine that is social programming, and shine a little of her own light over those less inspired, a la Mary Poppins!

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