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How should independent trainers demonstrate their expertise?


Competition has never been fiercer in the training industry, so how can you stand apart from your rivals? Judith Germain advises.

Experts are usually people that have demonstrated consistent practice in their field for 10 years or more and other people have conferred the status upon them. They are expected to know the solution whereas specialists solve a problem, which can be an important distinction when deciding the qualification or credentials of an individual.

It is a distinction between expert and specialist that is being made increasingly by buyers and referrers alike, even if they are not using this language. Progressively more employers are using this measure when they are deciding the career paths of their own employees, so the need to demonstrate expertise to remain in a coveted role is becoming all important.
It is therefore crucial for professional workers (whether freelance or employed) to not only have a good reputation for their expertise but be able to demonstrate it on a regular basis. Often it is assumed that this refers to the training room. Whilst this important facet cannot be ignored, neither can the need to appeal to a broader base. The use of social media including social networking sites is a necessity that is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.
For a profession that is used to standing 'at the front of the room' this is not always something that comes naturally, with many practitioners preferring to demonstrate their expertise on a face-to-face basis with those that they are currently training. Whilst this is an excellent way to gain referrals from your existing client base, a more socially proactive approach may increase the likelihood of additional work from those that do not know you.

Define your expertise

First things first, your expertise needs to be easily defined and remembered by others. Independent trainers may find this harder than employed trainers as their expertise needs to be uniquely defined in a way that employed trainers do not. For example, an employed trainer can get away with describing themselves as a 'soft skills' trainer and will be understood by most in the corporate market. This is because the corporate market is more 'forgiving' on loosely defined terms. Also, the livelihood of the employed corporate trainer does not rely on differentiation in the same way as an independent trainer does.

Most professional trainers secure work from their ability to demonstrate their expertise which are distinct from their peers and their ability to convince those who have never seen them work. The professional trainers need to convince them of their expertise and their uniqueness of ability and expertise. This is why differentiation from the market is all important. Having a business proposition that is clear and memorable is a good first step.

Questions to ask yourself include:

  • How defined is your expertise?
  • Do others easily understand how you describe your field of knowledge?
  • Is it easy to distinguish yourself from your peers?
  • What do others say about what you do?

Building your personal brand as an expert in your field

The first principle of personal branding is deciding what you want to be known for and how you and others will distinguish yourself from your peers. This is where a clear business proposition becomes crucial. Defining your reputation and assessing and establishing your credibility are necessary next steps.

Once this has been achieved you will need to concentrate on getting your message out to the right audience. There are a number of ways that this can be achieved but for the purposes of this article we will concentrate on the use of social and print media.

Be the expert

Professional trainers have a lot of knowledge that they can share with their audience outside the training room. If you want to be recognised as an expert in your field (which is becoming a necessity as clients prefer to hire experts rather than generalists) then you will need to be seen demonstrating your expertise widely. A good way to do this is to be regularly published in your industry press and provide expert opinion in the national press. Press releases can help you achieve this goal. Another way to build credibility as an expert in your field is to be published in areas outside your industry but still within your expertise. This would show that you are able to demonstrate and apply your knowledge outside your industry.

Demonstrate your knowledge by joining appropriate social networking sites that have an emphasis on business. Within these networks ensure that you have a business profile and are contributing and leading discussions around your area of expertise. If you are able to run online clubs you can do so around your expertise and attract others towards you that wish to learn from and follow you.

You can continue your goal of attracting others towards you by contributing to 'real-time' networks such as Twitter, Friendfeed and Google Reader. Google searches are increasingly prioritising 'real-time' content, so soon your SEO efforts on your website may become less effective. Having a YouTube channel or using Shareslide is another way to attract new followers who will want to consume your content and hire your expertise. Publishing a blog around your expertise helps demonstrate that you have a voice that is different from your peers.

Demonstrating expertise, along with leveraging reputation is an essential way to be seen as an expert in your field. The key is to be bold and ensure that others are able to see what you stand for. Have a voice that distinguishes you from others. Share your knowledge freely and seek to collaborate with others. This is not the same as free consultancy but a way of selling the sizzle but not the meat!

Judith Germain is founder, principal consultant and mentor of Dynamic Transitions Ltd a leadership company specialising in working with Troublesome Talent®, often called mavericks and improving leadership performance within organisations. Judith provides strategic mentoring, social media training and delivers innovative leadership programmes. For more information visit or email

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