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Validating Guru And Expert Status

I have been on a near constant rant about all the self proclaimed gurus and experts that popped up since, well shockingly enough since the recession started. Add on to that the ability to more easily self promote via Twitter and Facebook and it may be difficult at times to figure out who is as good as they say they are.

I was asked by a professional group if I had heard of a “guru” and I said no but that also did not mean they were not one. I frequently miss names in a conversation (but I can remember most things about them) so sometimes 2+2 does not = 4 until I stop and think about it.

Once I put 2 and 2 together I was fairly sure this was one of the newly minted “gurus” who was talking a good game but could not back it up let alone at the price quoted.

So I set out to research the Internet and see what I could find.

What I outline below may not be all the steps one could take or the right way to go about this but it is what I did. Feel free to leave a comment below about what I missed or what you would have done.

For the sake of this exercise I am going to use me as the example. In no way am I implying “guru” or “expert” status upon myself rather if I am going to pick on anyone it might as well be me:

Step 1: Google

  • Search for the person’s name. You will want to search for Paul DeBettignies and “Paul DeBettignies” as the results may vary depending on how common the name is. For very common names you may need to add something like MN, Minnesota or Minneapolis.
  • While in Google look at the tabs at the top of the page.
  • Click “News”, this will get you the last month’s of results. Then under “Archives” click “All Dates”
  • Click “more” then “Blogs”. You can sort by relevance and date.
  • Search their company name: “Nerd Search LLC”
  • Search their blog name or any other name they may go by: MN Headhunter “MN Headhunter” “Be Your Own Headhunter”

Step 2: LinkedIn

  • Do they have one, is it filled out? Do they give you material that is useful? Paul DeBettignies (yes, mine needs to be updated)

Step 3: Facebook

  • Do they have one and if they do it may not be public but give it a shot. Paul DeBettignies

Step 4: Twitter

  • Do they have one? Paul DeBettignies If so and if you can find search results about a session or presentation (try Google as Twitter Search is good for about 2 weeks) see what attendees said.

There are other ways to check names like JigSaw, ZoomInfo, Technorati, Better Business Bureau and many others.

Here is what I suggest you look for before engaging someone in business, pay for a speaker, etc.

  • Does your “guru” or “expert” have a track record you can qualify?
  • Has the person been around long enough to be a “guru” or “expert”?
  • Are there articles, news items, blog posts not self authored?
  • Do they have recommendations and referrals?
  • Are they mentioned in Top 10, Top 20 or similar lists? Peer review can be a good thing but also a caution that it could be a mutual admiration society. Judge these carefully.

When analyzing results:

  • You may need to dig through the search results
  • Followers on Twitter and Connections on LinkedIn do not mean one is a “guru” or “expert” rather what they do with them matters

If you want to be bold or as I call it “Be Your Own Headhunter” contact their connections, recommendations, referrals, etc.

What was the result of my search on behalf of the group? What I found or did not find (and then they too did this) was that there was no way the “guru” could be as good as they said they were. I then referred them to someone who I have a lot of respect for (you’re funny, no not me). It will cost them a few more dollars but the sessions will be exactly what they need with ongoing support.

This is not going to work for all industries. My guess is there are a lot of experts who speak about, say, actuary things who may likely not have a blog or be on Twitter. So use the above as a tool not the final determining factor.

The Internet is a two way street. One can promote all day and night but a little sleuthing can in many cases either substantiate or blow a hole in the claims made.



Do they have recommendations and referrals?

In almost any situation this seems to be key. Ask for referensces and then check those references. Make sure that the refereances are legitimate by following the same steps that were outlined above.

If a reference telephone number is a cell phone, it should be immediately subject to question. Any legitimate business is much easier to identify with a landline which can be searched for online.

Bill Boorman

This is spot on.I have also been concerned about those professing to be experts, gurus or Americas/UKs top or World Leading. It is for others to say about you rather than you to proclaim it about myself.
As a trainer and business consultant i find the emergence of the "gurus" is doing damage to the consulting industry. Too many people out for a quick buck. This does become transparent if you follow people for a while and notice there view changes as often as a politician. I'm also extremely suspicous of those that claim to have the "miracle" cure. This paticularly concerns me when they speak in a smoke and mirrors way and mystify there audience with complicated ideas which are really rehashes of what has been around for a long time. In recruitment there is no "magic" method. The concepts are very simple. My approach is to simplify and show that if i can understand it anyone can, along with a few good war stories from experience. Don't buy the gurus or Americas best. Look for people who keep the message very simple, presentations short, limmited use of jargon and buzz words and not self-professed leaders in their field.
Keep up the good work with your blog etc. I always look for your tweets.

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