Public speaking can be a difficult task for anyone. However, doctors have the added pressure of needing to appear knowledgeable and educated when dealing with patients and colleagues.
Here are some useful speaking tips for doctors to improve their ability to capture and hold the attention of an audience.
Practice until you’re perfect
As you prepare for your presentation, be sure to rehearse it thoroughly.
Whether the speech is for a medical conference, research symposium, or another occasion, practice makes perfect.
Make a recording of yourself presenting the speech so that you can watch and critique it later.
Practice in front of a mirror so that you can see your facial expressions and hand gestures.
Tape-record yourself practicing so that you can listen to what you actually sound like as well as watch what your body language conveys.
Practice in front of friends and family members whose opinions you trust so that they can give helpful feedback on how to make improvements during subsequent rehearsals.
Practice out loud with all the necessary equipment such as slides, PowerPoint presentations or other visuals if those will be part of your speech at the actual event.
Read through your notes or handouts silently beforehand to refresh your memory but then read them aloud during practice sessions because there is no substitute for speaking out loud when preparing for a public speaking event of any kind.
Be sure to time yourself repeatedly during each practice session so that by the day of the presentation itself you will know exactly how long this particular segment lasts, whether it’s five minutes or an hour-long lecture.
Use your own personal style
- Be yourself. Use your own words and style to convey the message you want to impart. This will make speaking feel natural, allowing your audience to be more engaged with what you have to say.
- Speak from the heart. Share anecdotes about your personal experience with patients or working in a clinical setting. People will find this approach relatable and impactful; it is sure to leave them with a positive impression of you as a speaker and clinician. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “Tell the truth; then you don’t have to remember anything.”
- Make eye contact. Making eye contact allows you to connect with your audience on a personal level and gives the impression that they are important enough for you to look them in the eye when speaking. It also makes it easier for them to understand what’s being said since they can see that you’re comfortable speaking in front of people, which builds credibility as well as trust. A great way of doing this is by making an effort not just to look at people, but rather gaze into their eyes while talking—this will create a lasting impact on each member of your audience that should leave them feeling both acknowledged and inspired by what they’ve heard.
- Have fun! Don’t forget why public speaking matters: it helps connect us—it connects us all through sharing stories about life experiences that reflect our humanity and spark ideas for creating change. Having fun while doing this type of work can help make it seem less intimidating or overwhelming!
So next time someone asks if there are any doctors in the house, don’t just stand up—stand up tall knowing how much we all need physician voices now more than ever before!
Get off the stage
- Get off the stage. This is your audience—not a group of people in an arena at the end of a long tunnel who will only hear you if you use the microphone or speak loudly enough. Talk to them as though they’re within arm’s reach and you’ll be more likely to make a personal connection with each individual listener.
- Engage the audience. You might have prepared a great presentation, but what happens if you lose your place? If there’s one thing that can make an audience uncomfortable, it’s a speaker who looks nervously around while trying to find what they were supposed to say next. Here’s how to avoid any awkward pauses: Make sure everyone feels involved and interested in what you have to say by asking questions, using visual aids, or taking advantage of technology (like PowerPoint projectors) when appropriate.
- Use visual aids away from center stage. A common error in public speaking is presenting visual aids on center stage where everyone can see them up close and personal—but this isn’t always ideal! By moving your visuals further away from center stage, it allows everyone else in attendance (who didn’t get front row seats) an opportunity for better viewing angles too; plus, it gives them something interesting going on behind your back instead of just staring at your speaker headshot poster next door all day long (which could get boring). The best way for us all together.”
Know your subject
The first step to a good presentation is knowing your subject. This is a no-brainer, but it takes on added importance when you’re talking in front of large groups. You don’t want to be caught off guard by questions from the audience.
To that end, make sure you know your presentation system inside and out before you go live in front of everyone.
If you’re using software like Keynote or PowerPoint for the first time, do some practice runs so you know how to advance slides and adjust your settings—and test everything on the computer and projector where you’ll be giving the presentation.
If possible, find a way to try this setup at least once before your event date. A little bit of prep can save embarrassing technical problems later (like the time I accidentally turned off my laptop while projecting my screen).
If you are hosting an event with several speakers, be sure to ask them whether they will have their own copy of their slides if they need to use one during their talk. For some events, it works well for me as host to show all of our speakers’ slides from my computer—but I also make sure I have each speaker’s PowerPoint file just in case something goes wrong with mine! The point here is that advance planning will keep things running smoothly and help eliminate potential problems down the road.
Speak for a group of peers, not for children
Your peers are intelligent, accomplished doctors. Speak to them as you would speak to a group of like-minded colleagues.
- Pause every now and then to let your audience digest what you’ve just said; also, use simple language in both the written and spoken parts of your presentation, avoiding jargon and technical terms.
- Remember that complex graphics or pictures can be distracting to an audience—use simple graphics that reinforce key points.
- When speaking, use a conversational tone—the same way you’d talk in the hallway with your peers. Avoid speaking in a monotone voice–it makes it difficult for your audience to stay engaged with what you’re saying.
- Don’t be condescending! We know it’s tempting–your audience is filled with highly skilled professionals who have undergone years of training so they could become specialists in their fields…..but don’t do it! Your tone should always be respectful and professional. If you treat other doctors like children, they’ll recall this for years to come – but not in a good way.
Plan your presentation to address the audience’s needs and concerns
The first thing you can do to make your presentation more useful and engaging for the audience is to know who they are.
Are they doctors, nurses, or other healthcare professionals? Are they patients? What do you think they want to learn about? What do you think their questions and concerns will be?
If you don’t already know the answers to these questions, it’s a good idea to find out by talking to the organization’s leaders or doing some online research.
Then tailor your presentation accordingly—use the right level of detail and focus on what the audience wants to know.
Don’t let the technology distract you from the audience
The technology is there to support you, not the other way around. When your presentation starts, don’t let your nerves get the best of you and start talking to the screen or computer instead of your audience. You’ll come off as cold, inauthentic, and detached. Remember that even though you’re presenting slides on a screen or some other visual aid, it’s important to make eye contact with your audience too.
Just because you’re using technology doesn’t mean that anything changes about how you’re supposed to present yourself—you should still stay calm, be confident and professional in demeanor (not just in what you say), and show energy by smiling a lot and being animated when appropriate.
Be comfortable with nervousness and any possible mistakes
Nervousness is a natural part of the public speaking experience. It’s easy to confuse nervousness with unpreparedness, but in fact, those are two entirely different things.
When you’re nervous to speak publicly it means that you care about your presentation and value your audience, so embrace that nervous feeling as a positive sign! It shows you’re excited to share your thoughts and ideas.
But getting out in front of an audience may also make you worry about making mistakes or losing confidence during your talk.
Being nervous can help keep you on your toes, especially if you’re feeling anxious before going onstage.
Plus, being able to admit when you’re nervous humanizes you and helps the audience relate to you better.
Don’t be afraid to say something like: “I’m a bit nervous right now.” You’ll probably see some heads nodding in agreement as people appreciate your honesty!
Explain why a topic matters, and explain it in layman’s terms rather than jargon
- Why does your topic matter?
Why should the audience care about your presentation? If you can’t explain why this information is important, then they’ll have no motivation to listen to it. For example, in a presentation on the new quarantine procedures that are going into effect at your hospital, you might say: “These procedures will save many lives and help ensure the continued health of our community.” Now that they know what they’re listening for, they’ll be engaged with your speech.
- Explain complex ideas using simple terms
If you don’t do this, the audience won’t understand what you’re saying. In a presentation about the new medication regimen for preventing malaria in travelers to sub-Saharan Africa, you might say: “We now recommend a different set of medications based on how long it takes for side effects to appear.”
Public speaking is an important skill that can be learned
Public speaking is a skill, just like any other. And like any other skill, it can be learned and practiced to get better at it.
The good thing about public speaking is that even if you are not a natural speaker or you don’t enjoy public speaking, being good at it will definitely help you in your professional practice.
Good public speakers can share complex information with clarity and credibility.
They are able to hold the attention of their audience as they speak using the right tone and body language.
Public speaking gives people the ability to persuade and inspire others, which is very important in healthcare where trust plays such a big role.
Public speaking is an essential skill for doctors to master, but it takes more than just technical knowledge to make a great, impactful presentation.
Great speakers have numerous qualities that they share, including relaxation techniques, the energy to captivate their audience, and the ability to communicate information effectively.
Communication is at the core of medicine, and because of this, public speaking skills are critical for any doctor who wants to become successful in the medical field.