Humans have of course been around for centuries.

We learn, we’re influenced, we draw our own conclusions and, assuming we’re in an environment which permits us to truly exude our individual creativity, we share our own thoughts and opinions.

Then came technology and the world-wide web.

Today, we have a seemingly unending wealth of information, not only offline however online too. Within seconds, we can search, find, devour and share almost any topic we choose.

And then there are the ‘un-creatives’. Some are also known blatantly as copycats. Plagiarism, although rife, is not what this article is about. It’s about something called substance and, in our ever-noisy world, it appears that real substance is waning. Fast.

Bloggers, for example, can churn out regurgitated content whilst hiding behind their screens, never to be seen, in some cases, using aliases. Accountability means nothing to some.

Previously unknown business ‘gurus’ – some who look like they just dropped out of college – can find their way into a plush office, film themselves whilst claiming they made a whole stack of cash selling something or other on Amazon. And guess what, they claim you can too; once you buy their online programs of course. Many of them know little except their market is unregulated so they feel they have a licence to say almost anything. Sadly, their prospects will buy without checking their credentials or even considering whether the guru in question has an ounce of true substance.

Offline, I recently found myself at yet another tech event with 3 out of the 4 panelists talking mainly garbage. Filling the air with self-adulation and in a judgmental way so annoying, at least 6 people in the audience left within 5 minutes of each other – just 15 minutes into the event.  They were the silent network on the move, quickly realising staying was wasting their time.

I stayed. One of the panelists, who must have been nearly double the average age of everyone at the event, was the gentleman who invited me. If it wasn’t for his invitation, I would have most likely escaped too.

My host did not disappoint. He showed substance. Real substance.

Not only did he put all the other panelists in the shade, it was obvious they were totally inept; made even more obvious with him by them.

He delivered with style and grace. He showed gravitas in the way he spoke and through his body language. What’s more, he was humorous too.  Even the facilitator was completely outshone, struggling to reciprocate by asking intelligent questions. It was obvious she did little research on any of the panelists she was interviewing.

So, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation as I was, hold it in your heart that there are still people out there who do have substance. You will notice them almost immediately. Follow them, learn from them and engage with them. If you’re fortunate, they could even mentor you.

In this context, here are the 9 key traits of substance:

S olid presence
U nlimited value
B eing graceful
S howing resilience
T empering hype
A uthentic profile
N ever arrogant
C redible proof
E ffective impact

They are the people who are confident enough to subtly cut through the noise and share their knowledge and experience on the spur of the moment and with no tech at hand. Perhaps that’s why the others were rather lost as there was no opportunity to grab their tech and search for answers online.

This is not about age and experience. This is about having and sharing value, whether young, middle-aged or mature.

The audience can judge for themselves and, yes, even the silent network.


John Coupland
John Coupland
JOHN is an independent marketing consultant and is the bestselling author of ACCELerate™ Your Social Media. With extensive experience in e-business and ICT, he helps ambitious entrepreneurs, business owners, and corporates with their business growth using his unique and proven ACCELerate™ methodology. John speaks at leading business events, has written a number of articles for major publications worldwide, and is a member of The Brain Trust®, Small Business Advocate Show®, America. Amongst a number of awards, John played an instrumental role in helping a major UK department store chain achieve the Queen's Awards for Enterprise - Innovation. Learn more at ACCELerate™ Your Business

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  1. Great article, John. I especially like your inclusion of authenticity. Technology allows us to hide behind masks, but ironically, it also helps support those who can live and act authentically and connect them with others of substance.

    • I agree Carol. Technology can indeed help with making the right connections too. Thank you for commenting and glad you liked the article.