How to be a better speaker. ‎

Whether you love it or hate it, there is no arguing that getting in front of potential referrers and speaking, is a great way to grow your private practice.

It can demonstrate your amazing surgical ‘whizz-kidd-ery’, you get to be helpful and solve clinicians’ problems and hopefully, people will connect with you more readily when they realise your entire body isn’t covered in scales.

So what helps us to be more ‘Ted talk’ and less ‘Dread talk’?

Private practice Ninja helper Firstly, it’s really important that you focus your attention on your audience’s needs.

You need to be speaking to them about stuff they want to know about. Stuff that they will find useful, rather than your favourite hobby horse topic, which makes them squirm when they realise they’ve forgotten all the anatomy they learned in first M.B.

So often I’ve sat in lectures, staring in wonderment at the baffled faces, when the lecturer has pitched way too high over the audience’s heads. This is in no way to say that you need to dumb it down, but many of us find ourselves afflicted with a bad case of ‘the curse of knowledge’. Quit using those twenty syllable words that should be reserved for dry academic research proposals.

Sometimes, you need to explain it like you would to your best mate in the pub, over a large jar of India pale ale. Keep it simple stupid.

When it comes to the content, I personally think that members of the audience probably aren’t as fascinated as you are, about the minutiae of your favourite surgical techniques, illustrated by dozens of ‘illuminating’ snapshots taken through your arthroscope. Let’s face it, most of us don’t know which way up they are anyway.

Feedback from colleagues has taught me that they’d rather here about topics such as:

How should I spot, or examine that person with condition ‘X’ and when should I refer them?

Private practice Ninja helper Next, try to think of what actions you would like your audience to take going forward.

In other words, what transformation do you want to see in the way that they handle a clinical problem?
For example, my personal bugbear is that many patients and clinicians think that groin pain automatically equals a hernia. (Not so! It’s usually their flippin’ hip!)
By the end of one of my talks, I want them to think hip first.

Don’t be afraid to spell it out. Say,

 ‘next time your patient rocks up with ‘X’ I want you to do ‘Y’’.

Private practice Ninja helper  Tell real experience stories. 

This is what really brings a talk alive and helps your listener to retain what you have said. If you are trying to explain a clinical condition, why not talk the listener through a patient’s scenario? Try to add lots of colour and description to the story and don’t be afraid to frankly ‘vignette’ it. Adding wherever possible, some of the little phraseologies that patients use, which may resonate with the listener next time they meet such a person. Helping clinicians to recognise situations when they should be taking action, is super helpful.

Private practice Ninja helper The power of three.

Three really is a magic number – ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen’ and ‘Education, Education, Education’ proves that politicians were onto something. Three is about the maximum number of take away messages that an audience can effectively deal with. Don’t try to cram in more.

All good talks need a strong start, a middle, and an ending. If your idea of speaking in public brings you out in a cold sweat, having a structure like this will be very reassuring, because you know it will end at some point! Rather than look upon this as a chore, why not think of it as an opportunity to learn a new skill.

Your number one ally in this process, is your physiology. Get it to help you out. There is lots of gorgeous sexy neuroscience out there that backs up the use of power poses before speaking (two minutes impersonating wonder woman in the toilets, should do it.)

People will also be watching what you do before you get up to speak. Rather than slithering up like a sulky teenager who has been asked to take a shower, jump to your feet, slap on a smile and at least pretend to look like you are pleased to be there. (Yes, we know the physios are really there for the cake).

Whenever possible, try to mingle with your audience in the room before you give your talk. They will see you are human, they will be on your side and willing your talk to go well.

Every now and then you might meet an apathetic or downright rude audience member. If this happens, please do not waste emotional energy trying to ‘win them over’. Rather, accept that they are a moody git that you can’t help, and focus instead on winning the hearts and minds of the people in the room that are interested in what you have to say, and who are making positive eye contact. You can’t win them all.

Private practice Ninja helper When it comes to Q and A’s.

Try to take them before you wrap up, because the last thing you want to be remembered for, is a fizzled out answer to a weird question.
Try saying something like

‘before I sum up, are there any questions?’

Then hit them with the three take away messages you want them to remember.

Don’t forget to add a call to action. It could be something along the lines of asking them to refer a patient in a particular scenario. You can do this without being sales-ey or cheesy…

‘So, next time you have a patient who mysteriously presents with the absence of a leg, remember that we have a one-stop, hop-shop for mysteriously one-legged people, and here is how you can make contact if you have any questions’ – (give hotline number or email address etc.)

Here is a challenge, courteously ask those in the room for their email addresses, so that you can add them to your email list. Go on, I dare you.

Private practice Ninja helper Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

Clinicians rarely get this ‘write’, and by write, I mean you need to write your talk, record it, listen to it, and rehearse it until it drives you nuts. Rehearsal is so important and so overlooked; you must give it the time that it deserves.

If I’m going to give a lecture to a big audience, I record it in Dictamus on my iPhone, then I will email it to myself so that I can save it to my desktop. I then upload it onto my iPod and listen to it when I’m out on my morning run. Yep, it makes me feel pretty queasy listening to the sound of my own voice but, guess what, getting really familiar with my content means I know I can nail the presentation.

Allow far more time for this than you would anticipate. As the folks at Ted-Ex say, ‘when a speaker sounds too rehearsed, they are not done rehearsing’.

Finally, nothing beats the fear of getting up and speaking more than doing it regularly. Yep we all have a dry mouth, sweaty palms and the notion that the microphone is literally picking up the sound of our hearts sledgehammering against our ribs, but with a bit of rehearsal, the fear quickly dissipates, and you can actually start to enjoy it. I promise you.

So next time you are asked to talk, set about implementing some of these useful strategies, then ping me an email to let me know how it went!

Sometimes, we all need a little extra help in building our practices – from a business perspective, as well as a clinical one.

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