Gaining Confidence in Public Speaking

By Sherman, Rose O. | American Nurse Today, March 2016 | Go to article overview

Gaining Confidence in Public Speaking


Sherman, Rose O., American Nurse Today


Speaking in public helps you gain important leadership skills.

EVA, a professional practice coordinator, and her team of clinical educators are thrilled to learn that their abstract on an iLead in Nursing initiative (Innovation in LEadership and ADministration in Nursing and Health Care Systems) has been accepted for a concurrent session presentation at the ANCC Pathway to Excellence Conference[R]. Eva will co-present for 1 hour along with one of her team members.

Initially, Eva is excited to be representing her hospital, which recently achieved the Pathway to Excellence[R] designation. But as the conference date nears, her excitement quickly turns to fear and anxiety. She even starts to wonder why she volunteered to give a presentation. Her speaking experience has been limited to presentations to small groups of colleagues whom she knows well; a national presentation to strangers is an entirely different forum. She knows she needs to gain more confidence--quickly--in her public speaking.

Eva isn't alone in her anxiety about public speaking. Many people suffer from glossophobia (fear of public speaking), which usually stems from fear of failure.

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But public speaking is an important leadership skill--one you can learn and become confident in. For Eva and her team, presenting at a national conference is an opportunity to gain recognition for a successful initiative that other organizations might want to replicate.

Preparing a high-impact presentation

Preparation is the key to gaining confidence in public speaking. In his book Presentation Skills Masterclass: Want to Be a Better Business Presenter?, internationally known speaker and coach Michael Jackson writes, "Perfect presentations are the product of good preparation and practice. Even the most charismatic people need to do this. Winging it is not an option."

Fortunately, Eva is passionate and knowledgeable about her topic, which will make it easier for her to give a high-impact presentation. As she prepares, she should focus on the following guidelines.

Know your target audience

When planning your presentation, learn as much as you can about the target audience for your presentation. Remember--when it comes to presentations, one size never fits all. Ask yourself: How much back-ground on my topic is the audience likely to have? What's their motivation for attending my session? Eva knows the audience at the Pathway conference will be nurses, many of them in leadership roles. They're likely to be interested not just in her initiative and outcomes, but also in how they can use the information she provides in their own setting.

Follow conference presentation guidelines

Most conferences provide specific guidelines on presentation length, time allotted for audience questions, and audiovisual equipment provided onsite. Before being chosen as a presenter, Eva submitted an abstract of her presentation; when preparing her presentation, she should keep in mind that she needs to meet the objectives listed in her abstract because that's what will appear in the conference program. By starting with the end in mind, she'll find it easier to establish clear goals to guide her as she develops her presentation.

Know the due dates for conference materials

Speakers usually are asked to submit their conference materials, including handouts, references, and PowerPoint[R] presentations, well in advance of the conference. Create your preparation timeline with those due dates in mind.

Prepare succinct PowerPoint slides

Use PowerPoint slides only as visual aids--and don't cram them with too many bullet points. Be aware that audiences lose interest quickly when speakers read their slides verbatim. Also, consider researching experts' recommendations relative to font size, slide backgrounds, and the number of slides to use for your allotted time. …

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