Inevitably, at some point in your career, you will likely have to share your knowledge with your colleagues, do some patient teaching in a larger group setting, show off your skills in nursing or perhaps instruct some new nurses. If the thought of speaking in public sends chills up and down your spine, rest assured, there are a few simple things you can do to both reduce your nerves and increase your confidence.
- Find opportunities to speak. Nothing, and I repeat nothing, will help you like practice. Just like everything we want to get better at, we need an opportunity to practice. Toastmasters is a fabulous organization that helps people develop their public speaking, communication and leadership skills. This brings the potential for nurses to advance their career and improve their self-esteem. The wonderful thing about Toastmasters is that you can go completely at your own pace and you will receive a lot of guidance and helpful advice.
Visit www.toastmasters.org to find a club near you. You can check out a few clubs for free to find the one that best fits you. It is the best bang for you personal and professional buck. You can thank me later!
- Be yourself. No doubt you have been to many in-services and seen many speakers. Take in what you like, be aware of what you didn’t, but don’t try to be like anyone but yourself. You are the best YOU! People can see through a phony veneer in a second, so be yourself.
- Take control. As a professional speaker for many years, there isn’t much that hasn’t gone wrong and there isn’t much that would surprise me. You have to be prepared for anything - microphones don’t work, the room set up is strange, there are not enough chairs, the list goes on and on. As the speaker, you are in charge, so take control of the room, ask for what you need and do what you have to do to make it work.
- Be prepared. Know your stuff, be organized, be on time, never go overtime (it’s the kiss of death), finish slightly early if you can, and start on time, but be welcoming to latecomers. If you have notes, use a larger font so you can see them easily, try not to shuffle your paper. Slide them over one by one rather than flipping them. Bring duplicates of your presentations and handouts. Nurses, try to perfect this skill: less sound, less distracting and more professional.
- Be confident. Do not tell them you are nervous, that it is your first time, or that you hate speaking in public. Do not tell them if you missed a point, forgot a slide or made a minor boo-boo. They don’t know the picture show, so just carry on smooth as silk. Chances are good that 99% of the audience will have no idea you missed something. If you do go ‘blank’, that is a great time to ask the audience for questions! If you do not know the answer to a question, do not guess! It is okay not to know everything. Take their contact information and get back to them with an answer or resource to find it.
- Fake it 'til you make it. Chances are also good that you don’t look as nervous on the outside as you do on the inside.
At the end of the presentation, don’t beat yourself up if you feel as though you could have done better. We all think we forgot the most important point or remember that there was one more thing we wanted to say. Pick one thing that you would do differently for the next time and pick one thing that you thought went really well and you would do again. Nurses, acknowledge your skills and congratulate yourself for doing a brilliant job and look forward to your next opportunity.
Nurses, you have a lot to share so don’t let your fear of speaking in public deprive the rest of us from hearing your brilliance!