What Do Experts Do?

by Kristen Burgess
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What do experts do?  In the minds of your prospects there’s something that separates experts from amateurs. It comes from demonstrating, that is showing, their expertise.  If you want to separate yourself as an expert from all the other people that are out there, the amateurs, and even the other experts, you do that by showing that you’re an expert.  If you’re a new doctor, you practice medicine. If you’re a new schoolteacher, you teach.  If you’ve just qualified as a pilot, you fly.  The only difference between someone who’s just starting out, and someone else who’s been doing it for years, is the skill that those people demonstrate over somebody else.

But that skill has to be observed.  If you weren’t aware of the subtleties between the two, you might not be able to tell the difference.

Let me give you an example.

Some years ago there was a music program on British television that proved how difficult it is to distinguish an experienced expert from someone who wasn’t.  The program was about a contest in which several people would conduct a symphony orchestra.  Every contestant that was there had studied conducting for years.  They attended music conservatories, and they’d all been tutored by the best. All of them except one.

That one had been recruited for the program – I think he was a rock musician.  But he didn’t know anything about classical music.  I couldn’t believe how naive he was.  He had never heard of any of these things, any of these pieces that you and I would instantly recognize.  You don’t have to be a classical musician to recognize this stuff.  There are some things that are just so common you just know they were written by Bach, or Beethoven, or whatever.  This guy had no idea about any of that stuff.

Now you might just think that hey, you know, a musician is a musician.  So with a little practice, he could just fake it.  He could just pretend he was a conductor and no one would notice.  But here’s the kicker – he couldn’t read music!  Not a note.  He didn’t know a treble clef from a bass clef, let alone a tenor clef.  He didn’t know his sharps from his flats.  And time signatures?  Forget it.

But, over the course of a number of weeks, he memorized not just the music, but the most important thing is, he memorized the pattern of beating time, waving the baton, drawing more volume from one section with one hand, and less from another with the other hand.  And he learned how to do it in such a way that he looked like the expert conductor that he would be if he had studied those things.  As long as he just heard that one piece, then his brain kicked in and he went through all the motions as if he was conducting it, but he wasn’t.  Now if at the last minute music that he was going to conduct had changed for any reason, he would have been lost.  But here’s the best part.  Since he couldn’t read music, it meant that he had to conduct the entire piece without a score.

I’ve sung in choirs and I have a music background and I can tell you that it’s quite an achievement for a conductor, no matter how experienced he or she is, to conduct without a score.  It’s something that most of them don’t do.  In fact, only the very best people are able to do this.  And for the amateur it would be useless to him for him to have had a score.  It would be crazy for him to have a score up there on the music stand because he never would have known when to turn the pages.  He couldn’t read the music, so if had tried to fake it by turning the pages, he would have clearly done it more than once at the wrong time.

Now, at the end of the program, at the end of the television program, the organizers, the people that knew that there was a plant in the contest went up to one of the judges and, and up until that time the judge hadn’t really suspected anything.

And they asked them if they could identify the phony.  And it was only then that the person who had been planted in the program had been spotted.  And you know why the amateur was picked up from all the rest? It was because he was too good.  It was because he had conducted the orchestra without music.  But until that time, this non expert was assumed to be an expert. Just like the rest of them.

This story teaches us a lot about how prospects evaluate us.  They don’t ask us for a job history. They don’t ask us for references.  They don’t ask us to prove that we’ve got a degree.  All they do is look at what we’ve done.  What you’ve done.

That means that if you provide the same kind of evidence as the established experts do, then you too will be seen as one by your prospects.  That leads us to the next question.  What’s the evidence? You already know the answer to that.  It’s the content.  Articles, blog posts, YouTube videos, audio recordings, anything that enables you to communicate your expertise to those who want it.

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