15 Public Speaking Hacks for the Shy Practitioner
Some practitioners are shyer than others and may not feel as comfortable giving presentations. You may not realize it, but public speaking is a skill that we use daily. It is much more than standing up to give a presentation or speech.
- Speaking with patients
- Talking to a group of friends
- Telling others about your practice
- Meeting new people at an event
- Striking up a conversation with a vendor at your local farmers market
Almost anyone can learn to hone their public speaking skills, become more comfortable using them, and tap into the skills they did not realize they had. The following tips and tricks will help you become more at ease with giving presentations, and some can even be used to improve your daily interactions with people.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare. And practice, practice, practice. Give yourself plenty of time to practice aloud by having your presentation finished days ahead of time. First practice speaking aloud to yourself with no audience. Then present to your staff, neighbor, friend, or even your dog. After ample prep and practice, it will be easier to shake off your jitters and deliver.
- Work particularly hard practicing your introduction. The intro is what grabs the audience and sets the tone of your presentation. Research has shown that having the introduction nailed down will help ease anxiety levels.
- Record yourself on video. Play it back and see how well you are doing and where you need to improve.
- Spend some time reflecting on the speeches you have heard and liked. Why did you like them? Find ways to incorporate these elements into your presentation.
- Use notes to cultivate calm, be present and generate support. Turn your notes into a calming presence and your cheering squad. If using note cards or paper, in the margins write cues like “Relax”, “Slow down”, “You rock” or “You’ve got this!” Use Post-It notes on the edge of your laptop screen to keep you in the moment. A couple notes that may help are “Pay attention” and “Hear what you are saying.”
- Use your imagination. Prior to your presentation visualize yourself giving an incredible speech. If you find yourself nervous when it’s time to present, imagine that someone you love, who has a calming influence on you, is holding your hand.
- Have a soft voice? Let it be soft. The microphone is there for a reason. It will project your voice. You will feel more relaxed if you’re not trying to force your voice to an unnatural volume.
- Forgive yourself. You don’t have to be perfect. Generally speaking, audiences are generous and kind. They want you to do well.
- Just be you. Don’t try to be someone you are not. Be yourself and you will be more relaxed.
- Maintain eye contact. This is such an important skill and you can practice it daily. Refer back to the list of public speaking situations in the introduction and practice making eye contact during these times
- Dress up. When you dress for your presentation, think of it as putting on a costume. Costumes can remove inhibitions.
- Keep in mind public speaking is about the audience. Your job is to take care of the audience. As a healthcare practitioner, taking care of people might come second nature to you. Tap into that natural feeling. Remind yourself that you are not seeking approval or love. You are there to teach, give and enlighten.
- Calm your body. Do you have trouble calming your mind before a presentation? Relax your body first and your head will follow.
- Make friends ahead of time. Try talking to a few audience members before your presentation, and then during the talk speak and look directly at those individuals. This can create the sensation that you are speaking one-on-one. Speaking to one person in most circumstances is less intimidating that speaking to a large group.
- Smile at your audience as they enter and when you begin speaking. This will make you feel more relaxed, confident, and connected.
Public speaking is an attempt to communicate a message to someone else and build a relationship with them. Prep and practice will go a long way in making you feel less nervous about it. Becoming a better public speaker will not only help your career, it will help in all aspects of your life where you find yourself speaking with people.