Public speaking

Independent Nurse: Professional – Public speaking – Brush up your presentation skills

Public speaking can be a daunting prospect for many nurses, but basic preparation will help boost the communication skills that many practice and community nurses already possess. Kate Brudenell explains how to make a positive impression.

Making formal presentations may not be a routine part of a practice or community nurse’s job. However, learning to deliver presentations effectively can be useful for those who are keen to work with primary care organisations, promote local initiatives or raise awareness of health promotion projects. Nurses may even wish to present an idea to organisations like the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI), to persuade them to provide funding for their initiative. This article outlines what to consider before making a presentation and offers practical advice to help make your presentation at first-takeuk a success. Nurses are often passionate about their subject matter and such visible enthusiasm, displayed during a presentation, can help speakers engage with their audience. However, this can be a double-edged sword. Because nurses are so knowledgeable, they can find it difficult to condense their wealth of knowledge into key messages. Anne Pearson, practice development facilitator at the QNI, has observed many nurses making presentations and says that this is a common mistake. ‘Nurses often try to convey too much information, in a limited amount of time’, she explains. ‘This can bombard the audience to the point that they switch off from what they are hearing. Nurses need to work to a careful media production london strategy, which will enable them to structure their information and tease out the crucial points they would like to make.’ A presentation strategy should take into account key messages, visual aids and timescale. Once you have selected three key messages to impart to your audience, it is important to decide how best to communicate these, for example whether you are going to support your presentation with visual aids, and how you will go about including them. Determining how much time you have to play with – both in terms of preparing for your presentation, and time allocated to you on the day – is also important.

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Handling your audience

Carefully tailoring your presentation to the knowledge and interests of your audience can help iron out any potential problems. However, should you find yourself presenting to an audience who do not really want to be there – such as those who consider their attendance a waste of valuable time or assume they already know everything that you are going to tell them – view the experience as a challenge rather than a disaster. This positive view is taken by Charmaine Champ, a Chelmsford-based community nurse specialist for children with disabilities, who has grown to relish such opportunities. ‘It can be disheartening when you know you are presenting to a group of people who aren’t really listening to what you have to say,’ she admits. ‘However, now I enjoy the challenge of winning them over and it feels like a real achievement when I’ve managed to overcome their initial disinterest.’ Ms Champ, a QNI Developing Practice Award winner, argues that making presentations interactive is a highly effective way of interesting an audience in your subject matter. She recommends encouraging interaction early on in your presentation, for example starting off with an activity such as a quiz, or throwing a question out for discussion. This method of engaging with an audience is particularly effective in those drowsy after-lunch slots, which can become some audience members’ opportunity to take a power nap. Ensuring you make eye contact during your talk, speaking clearly – varying intonation – and paying attention to your body language will also help you to retain your listeners’ interest.