It’s no secret that one of the best ways you can build your practice is to make yourself available to speak to local groups about the art and science of chiropractic. What’s not as well-known is that speaking in front of groups, large or small, does not have to be a stressful experience. In fact, with practice, you may even start to enjoy public speaking.
Rotary meetings, chamber events and health-care forums can provide you with the opportunity to increase awareness of chiropractic, dispel myths, create a better understanding of the profession, and benefit your practice. What more could you ask for from such a small investment of your time?
First Things First
If you remember two key aspects of public speaking, you will be starting out ahead.
The Rule of Tell ’Em. Begin with this concept: “Tell ’em what you are going to tell ’em. Tell it to them. Then tell ’em what you told them.” In other words, open with an introduction, including an “agenda,” or set of goals for the presentation; provide the content information; and then summarize the information.
Last Is First. One researched fact of public speaking is that during a presentation, most people remember no more than five key points. Ideally, as a speaker, you should have a list of the five most important points, concepts or facts that your audience should remember.
How do you get your audience to remember what you want them to during a talk that includes a visual presentation? When you’re creating the presentation, start with the last slide (or overhead, or the last frame of your PowerPoint presentation, etc.). Forget the details for a minute; forget the presentation’s organization. Instead, write out your conclusion or summary slide first. It should emphasize the most important points you plan to make. Once you have visualized those points, it’s relatively easy to build the presentation around them.
Once you have established the basic principles, it’s time to focus your attention on how to deliver the best possible presentation:
KISS: Keep It Simple, Silly.
There are many ways to apply this adage. The bottom line is that the more complicated things get, the more trouble you may encounter. For example, new technology is wonderful, but 15 minutes before your presentation starts is not the time to break in new equipment, such as an overhead projector, slide projector, Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) panel, etc.
Make sure any equipment you rent arrives early — not 15 minutes before your presentation. Check out everything in advance. Then check it again. Remember, the presentation should focus on the message. Don’t get carried away with special effects and razzle-dazzle. If you do, audience members may lose track of your key messages.
Support Materials. Good presenters provide the audience with hand-outs or support materials. Develop hand-outs not only for use during the talk, but also for reference later on. Providing support materials increases the staying power of the message.
Rehearse the Presentation – But Don’t Memorize. Rehearsing is one thing; but committing the presentation to memory and performing it by heart is not generally the way to go. Your speech needs to be presented, not recited.
On the other hand, make sure you don’t just get up there and “wing it.” To present the most professional image, know your material. That’s why it’s a good idea to write a script of your speech. Your presentation should be written out word-for-word. Indicate in the material where slides, overheads, etc. go. It’s a painstaking process, but I have seen people fail miserably because they didn’t prepare properly.
It’s okay to occasionally leave your main script, but wandering presentations that lack focus, becoming too dependent on working from your notes, or long pauses to compose your thoughts are not acceptable.Your audience may begin to question your credibility if you read your speech or spend too much time checking notes.
Your script is like a road map. It provides you with the proper direction you need to make your points and keeps you on track. If you need to deviate from it, only do so in rare instances, and use the script to help you get back on track. Television and radio reporters use scripts, so why not use them, too?
Rehearsing your presentation includes more than just going over what you are going to say. Try to rehearse your entire presentation using the same room and audio-visual equipment that you will be using in the presentation. If that’s not possible, try to simulate the experience so you are as comfortable as you can be prior to the actual event.
Dress For Success. Some people have said that you can never overdress for a presentation. Others will disagree. Other factors often come into play, particularly how you handle yourself in the situation.
Everyone agrees you should never underdress. How do you determine what is appropriate? Pay attention to what other speakers wear, find what works best for you, and then ask colleagues you trust for feedback. Experience is the best teacher.
Keeping a Cool Head. Many people fear public speaking even more than they fear death. A little nervousness, however, is okay. The increased heart rate reminds you that you are alive. To help decrease nervousness, use this technique: Get out there, look around, close your eyes for a moment, and picture the people in the front row either naked or in their underwear. Sure, it may sound like an old “Brady Bunch” episode — but it really does work. Another technique is to pick one or two people easily visible to you, and “speak” to them. Be sure to also observe others, but concentrate on just a few.
Pace Yourself – Don’t Go Too Fast, or Too Slow. As a general rule, every graphic you show deserves at least 10 seconds, and none rate more than 100. If you’re spending several minutes on one slide or overhead, or making one particular point, consider breaking it up. This is not a firm rule, but a general guideline. Obviously, some charts or graphs can take several minutes to properly present. If that’s the case, perhaps you could use multiple slides to break up the concept so it can be better understood. Once you are done with a slide, lose it. Don’t leave an image up for your audience to view once you move on to other points, as it will only distract and confuse them.
Another hint: Never put more words on a slide or overhead than you would a T-shirt. Hard-to-read slides are a lot like fine print — few people will go to the trouble to read them. Try instead to pull out one or two concepts from hard-to-read visuals and focus on them.
Your Place As A Presenter. Your role is to focus on your audience, not your audio-visual equipment.
Follow these tips:
- Face your audience. They can’t see and hear you if you are not visible to them.
- Observe them. See the reactions to your ideas and concepts.
- Make eye contact. Don’t wander around the room and don’t look down. Wandering can be a sign of nervousness. Looking down may be taken as “trying to figure out what’s next.” (Remember — you’re the speaker — you’re supposed to know the material.)
- Use real-life examples. Whenever appropriate, use anecdotes and examples to make your point (without using names, of course). Draw from your past, or the experiences of others, to make your point. Audiences enjoy listening to stories about real people.
- Lose the computer, slide projector, etc. — that is, don’t hide behind it. Get a remote mouse or an assistant, and get in front of the group, where you belong, as a presenter, leader, moderator and communicator.
- Change the educational tools you are using every 20 minutes. Most adults, like children, have a short attention span — only about three times longer than your average 3-year-old. Adults, like children, enjoy touching and feeling things, so give them “toys” periodically during the presentation to touch and feel.
- Remember the following adage: “The mind will absorb what the (audience member’s) seat will endure.” Give the audience time to absorb your message, and if necessary, take a stretch break midway through the presentation to allow audience members to stretch, replenish beverages and use the restroom. If you don’t, they will take their breaks when they want to, not when you want them to.
Deferring Questions and Following Up. In order to retain control of the flow of the presentation, where appropriate, defer questions to later in the presentation or afterwards. However, depending on the group, it may be appropriate to field questions during the presentation. In other instances, you may be addressing that point later, or may to cover it after the meeting. You are the best judge of how to handle each situation.
Making A Good Thing Even Better
You can enhance your presentation by using a few basic concepts. You’ll be surprised, once these idea are implemented, how much better your presentation will flow and how receptive your audience will be to your material.
Enthusiasm. Absolutely nothing will help your presentation more than communicating passion and confidence. It doesn’t have to be an evangelical: “Do you believe? — I believe.” If you convey the enthusiasm you feel about chiropractic, the audience will recognize your belief and confidence, which will add credibility to your message.
The Power of Language.
The words you select will dramatically impact your audience’s reaction — to both your ideas and your effectiveness as a presenter. Use “power” and “command” words to get your audience’s attention and to convey confidence and competence. It’s always best if you can address the audience in second person. “You” is a very powerful word. Generally, audiences react much better to being addressed as “you,” rather than the third person. For example, you would say: “As a participant, you will benefit,” rather than, “Participants will benefit.”
Humor. The right amount of humor can go a long way to build rapport with your audience, and keep your audience interested and attentive. As a rule, don’t tell jokes for their own sake; drop in your humor where it fits, relating to a point, or a break between sections. Small amounts of humor or an irreverent comment from time to time can liven a presentation. Remember, sleeping audiences remember little. To test the “acceptability” of your humor, rehearse your presentation in front of people you know and trust. They will tell you if your remarks are appropriate and funny.
Relevant quotations can make a noticeable impact on your audience. It’s not always possible to find quotes that are directly related to your presentation, but it’s often easy to find a series of quotes that complement or promote concepts that are part of your presentation.
These hints will go a long way in helping you become more comfortable with presenting information about your practice and the chiropractic profession. You may also refine your own speaking techniques that will help take the stress out of making presentations. With a little practice, it won’t be long before you are asked to present before more and more local groups. Chances are, plenty of new patients and referrals will follow. Good luck!