When training, credibility matters

Credibility will impact on the effectiveness and impact of training, says Krista Powell Edwards.

Derived from the Latin word ‘crede’ to believe, credibility is the amount of believability that is attributed to someone or something.

If someone has credibility people are more likely to listen to them, believe them, trust them and be influenced by them. All these enable trainers to have influence and their training to have the impact required.

What is important to understand about credibility is that it is not achieved just by a trainer thinking or knowing they are credible. It is the person or group being interacted with – the audience – who decides if a trainer is credible or not.

What also has to be considered is that the audience will have assumptions and expectations about trainers and training. This will be a result of their experiences and conscious and unconscious bias and will impact on their perception of the trainer’s credibility.

So what has to happen to communicate credibility so that trainers have influence and training interventions have impact?

The starting point to being able to communicate credibility is in identifying an outcome. Outcome in this context is what the trainer wants to achieve as a result of the interaction with their audience. The clearer and more distinct the outcome, the easier it will be to plan and implement the actions to achieve it.

As it is the audience who decides if the trainer is credible or not, it is essential to next identify the audience. The audience is everyone who is involved or connected with the training, or who will affect the learning objectives being achieved.

Audiences will include stakeholders, for example the learners managers, those commissioning training, and those involved in training strategy. The greater the understanding of the different audiences, the easier it will be identify what is needed to communicate credibility as a trainer.

Audiences will include stakeholders, for example the learners managers, those commissioning training, and those involved in training strategy

What will need to be communicated are four components:

  • Capability
  • Connection
  • Congruence
  • Conviction

What is required from each component will depend on the outcome and audience in any specific training situation.  

Audiences are not homogenous and their assessment of a trainer’s credibility will be impacted by their strength of preference for the credibility components. For example, in any audience there may be people who will assess a trainer as credible by the trainer demonstrating capability through having particular knowledge.

This may be the essential requirement in their judgement of credibility, with other components being much less important.

Conversely there may be people in any audience for whom capability is of less importance than other components. They may judge the trainers credibility by the conviction the trainer is communicating –how much the trainer is communicating that they believe in what they are saying.

Knowing the required outcome and the audience will greatly assist the trainer to identify what aspects of the four components need to be communicated in any training related situation.

Capability is the first component and it is the knowledge, skills and behaviour required of the trainer.

A trainer’s capability encompasses more than core training design and delivery knowledge and skills.  Core training design and delivery knowledge and skills will be assumed to be present; not demonstrating this capability would negatively impact on a trainer’s credibility. 


Associated capabilities would also be expected, including expertise in facilitation, presentation skills, timekeeping, and group management. Extensive subject area knowledge would also be expected. 

If these areas of capability are not evident to the expected level, then the trainer’s credibility will be undermined. So it is essential that a trainer considers what capabilities will be required to achieve the outcomes required with an audience, and then how these capabilities are being communicated.

This assessment of required capabilities and being able to demonstrate them applies to every interaction the trainer has with any audience involved in the training process. 

Connection is the relationship the trainer has with the audience. Connection is the relationship the trainer establishes with everyone involved in the training. The connection may be slight, for example, with peripheral stakeholders, it could be extensive, for example, with learners.

Connection is important in training delivery as it assists in building rapport, which in turn builds trust between trainer and learner. This helps the trainer to be able to positively influence the learners and engender learning acquisition.

To build a connection with an audience the trainer needs to be considering and addressing what any  audience will be asking which is ‘How do you relate to me/us’?

The strength and type of connection required to communicate credibility will depend on the audience and the required outcomes with the audience.

Conviction is the strength of belief in what is being communicated. In any interaction with a trainer, the audience will be assessing the trainer’s conviction in what they are saying. The trainer’s communication will not just be from the words they are saying, it will also be in their non-verbal communication. Any noticeable lack of conviction by the trainer will lead the audience to think ‘if you don’t believe it, why should I’? and this will negatively affect the trainer’s credibility.

Conviction is intangible, communicated from the outside, and very difficult to fake. This means it is not easy to ‘put on’ conviction. However it also means that if conviction is being communicated it will impact positively on any audience and it give credibility to what the trainer is saying.

Congruence is the consistency of the offering. A trainer will communicate congruence when there is consistency in the words being spoken and their non-verbal communication. It is also achieved when there is a match of the actual to the expectation.  

This applies to the match of the subject and its delivery. If the subject being trained is confidence the audience would expect the trainer to be communicating in a confident manner. That would be congruent.

If audience expectations are not met, if there is incongruence, the credibility of the trainer is likely to be undermined. Meeting audience expectations in any aspect of training is critical. If there is incongruence in the expectation and the reality it will negatively impact on the training effectiveness.

To conclude

When training, credibility matters. It is essential that the trainer considers what credibility is required to have a positive impact as a trainer and to enable training to be effective.


About the author

Krista Powell Edwards is managing consultant at KMPE Consulting


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