OFFICIAL LIVE BLOG: Owning Your Expertise

Session Description: This is a Beginning level session geared towards those who feel passionately that they’d like to start raising their voice on political and social issues, but need help finding the confidence and internal validation to spread their word farther and louder. If you’re already submitting Op-Eds to the New York Times on a regular basis, then this session might not be for you, but if you’d like to be that person getting their Op-Ed published or being interviewed on CNN, or even if you’d like to gain the chops to blog more openly about your ethical, philosophical and political beliefs, then this session will leave you feeling empowered to do so in a way you never have before. This session features Katie Orenstein, founder of The Op-Ed Project, facilitating one of the most critical segments of that day-long seminar, assisted by Op-Ed Project alumna (and BlogHer co-founder), Elisa Camahort Page.

Elisa is introducing herself and thanking for their sponsorship. Katie Orenstein has been invited for two sessions because she has so much to say about empowering women, helping us raise our voices, and helping us to get our voices out better.

Katie is now on stage.

Public opinion in America is dominated by a small group which i s very small and 85% male. Because the group is so small, it distorts public opinion. The spectrum of thought-leadership is male. 84% of best selling novelists are male and 84% of Congress is male as well.

 It's quite difficult to wake up and be in Congress, but it's not difficult to wake up and write an Op-Ed.

A few years ago, the president of Harvard did a big speech about why there are so few women in thought-leadership positions and angered many people. This started a very public fight about institutionalized sexism. 

I felt the debate missed the most obvious and solvable part of the problem: women don't submit Op-Eds are frequently. Last year, 90% of submissions to Wash Post were male and 88% of by-lines were by males. This is actually a proportional result, due to lack of submissions. This is a pattern that gets perpetuated.

The reason I have so many Op-Eds published, is because someone taught me how. It is not rocket science. The Op-Ed project has spread because the success rate of getting published (25 to 75%) is very high, 

1) What is the source of credibility?

2) What is the difference between evidenc-based and rhetoric?

3) What is the difference betwen being right and being effective?

4) What is the bigger picture and how do you tie in to it?

The room is going to be split into two groups and we're going to ask how are you an expert. 

But before we start, Katie asks, "What credentials can make you an expert?"

Participant answers: writing a book.

Participant answers: having personal experience.

What credentials identify an expert?

Katie says: affiliation with a recognized blog.

participant: a degree.

participant: your profession.

participant: endorsements.

By the term expert I mean, something that you are positioned to be the go to expert on, in this room. What would you have to do in order to be the go to expert? Answer: specialize. Find your angle.

Great example: young girl came through Op Ed session and said she was an expert on motorcross racing. But that's broad. So we encouraged her to change it to teenagers in motorcross racing.

"Hello, my name is Katie Orenstein. I am an expertin the Littel Red Riding Hood. I am an expert because I wrote a book called the Little Red Riding Hood: uncloaked."

"Hello, I'm Elisa Camahort Page. I am an expert in women and social media because I founded an organization that has xxx members and reaches xxxx users monthly."  Katie says adding numbers to your qualification makes your claim much stronger.


Katie explains the exercise. You need to state " Hello, my name is xxx. I am an expert in xxx BECAUSE xxxx." If you don't use the word because, you haven't done the exercise. This is an exercise about what you know and why you know it.

Katie advises: "There's no way that you can sum up who you are in one sentence. This is not your epitath on your tombstone. This is just one thing you are an expert on."

The participants in my breakout group were: Allison from No Time for Flashcards, Rachel from Tales of my 30s, Randi from WowOWow, Barbara from Hole in the Donut, Elise from Daily Recipes, and Danielle from LIfe in the Kids Meal Crowd.


How many had trouble with this exercise? Majority of the room. How many had trouble with the word expert? At least half the room. Tell me why.

Participant: expert implies that I know more than anything else and I have trouble stating that.

Participant: expert sounds snobby.

Participant: narrowing down to just one field is difficult from me.

Participant: always that balance between coming across as cocky vs. confident. 

Participant: Being an expert comes with age and experience and I feel too young at 24 to consider myself an expert.

Participant: Previous career conflict, trying to identify with a new career.

Participant: I coudln't get something concrete that I felt I was an expert in. It was hard to narrow it down.

Participant: When you're in a group of this caliber of women, it is hard to state you are an expert.

Participant: I would have said I was an expert on just travel but pushing me to narrow it down really helped so thank you.

Participant: I got hung up because I blog about what is not my profession and not what I have degrees in.

Participant: What helped me is focusing on your purpose in life. That narrows it down.

Participant: I am an expert in women and leadership from Mary Kay. No one will ever believe you are an expert if you don't claim it for yourself. So claim it ladies!

Participant:  I had problems because I felt my stats were not big enough and didn't feel like they had as much meaning as they should.

Participant: I struggle with the because. I am a weightloss expert because I struggled with over eating for 10 years and lost the weight or because I have a list of 2500 names or because I have many weight loss clients. Which should come first.

Katie started doing the Op Ed process on her spare time. She had some influential women and struggled to find the right way to get them in to editors.  They too struggled with the word expert. I've done high 200 sessions and only one session didn't have issues with the word expert. It was at 8AM at Merrill Lynch and they were MDs and up. Men, ont he other hand, almost never have this problem with the word expert.  The only men I've ever worked with who have an issue with the word expert were Muslim and one was a yoga instructor.

The founder of Nickelodeon told her that she doesn't feel like she's an expert in anything. Another woman who had written 5 books, won a Pulitzer prize, and she didn't feel that she was an expert in anything.