Making an Effective Presentation

Public Speaking

Presentations are more enjoyable when the audience is engaged or involved. People are more likely to try your services if they feel they know you personally. Popular techniques for engaging an audience include:

  • Asking for a show of hands. How many people have experienced back pain this month? This year? These types of questions help you gauge your audience's interest while getting them to open up to you.
  • Asking for a volunteer. Whether it is to hold a chart or demonstrate the proper way to lift a box, your audience will enjoy seeing a familiar face up front. You may want to line up a good-natured individual to be your volunteer ahead of time. 
  • Starting a group exercise. Ask your audience to do something specific that illustrates a point you are making. For instance, instead of talking about the vertebrae, ask everyone to put their hand on the back of their neck and feel their own vertebrae.
  • Ask if there are questions. It is important to pause briefly after each point to see if everyone understands before moving on. You may want to arrange ahead of time to have someone in the audience you know ask a question to help break the ice.

Speak with Confidence

There is nothing better than experience to build your confidence as a public speaker. But it's also very common to lack that confidence your first few presentations - and to experience anxiety and nervousness when you get in front of a room of people. Here are a few suggestions to help you stay calm and appear confident when you're feeling just the opposite:

  • Pour a glass of water ahead of time. Trying to pour water from a pitcher with shaking hands, sweaty palms and everyone looking at you can be very difficult. Prepare a glass before you speak and set it by the podium.
  • Take a drink of water if you get flustered. Stop and take a slow, deliberate drink from your water glass to help you gather your thoughts. To your audience, it will appear as a natural pause or that you are thinking about a specific point. Don't shuffle your notes - that is a definite sign of your inexperience and nervousness.
  • Tell your audience three things to begin - how long you'll be speaking, when they can expect a break and how you will handle questions. Example: "Today I'll be discussing healthy gardening with you for the next 45 minutes. We'll follow that with a 10-minute break for you to stretch and fill your coffee cups and then end the evening by answering any questions you might have." This will help set a format and limit interruptions (questions at the wrong time), helping you keep your train of thought and stay in command of the presentation.
  • Look in a mirror right before you speak, especially if this is a lunch or dinner meeting. It will be difficult for your audience to focus on what you are saying if you have mustard on your chin or your hair is sticking up on top.
  • Type an introduction for yourself. Send a short, suggested introduction to the group ahead of time and take a copy with you to the event in case the host loses his or her copy. The introduction will set the tone for your entire presentation, so don't take any chances - make sure you are introduced as professionally as possible.
  • Arrive early and socialize. Make conversation with as many people in the audience as possible before your presentation. This will get them on your side and help you think of your audience as real people who you have met - and can make eye contact with.
  • Check and double-check visual aids and technology. Check your microphone, projector, computer, screen, posters or other visual aids in advance. Also remember to plan for all the possibilities. If the projector doesn't work at the last minute, how will you handle it? Planning ahead will help eliminate any surprises in the midst of your speech. Also, view your visual aids from various seats in the audience beforehand to make sure everyone will have an unobstructed view.
  • Prepare questions for yourself. If you plan to have a time for questions and answers at the end of your presentation, come up with several good questions of your own that you could ask and answer. This will help get things rolling and can fill awkward time gaps if no one can think of a question to ask.
  • Limit discussions. If the group you are speaking to includes more than 20 people, don't even attempt a group discussion. You'll have too many opinions involved, and it could become too difficult to control.
  • End on a positive note. Smile when you're through and tell the audience that you have appreciated their attentiveness and enjoyed speaking to them. This will help the individuals remember you as a gracious, positive person - the kind of professional they would trust for health-care services. 


Another great way to build your confidence and improve your speaking abilities is to ask your audience for their feedback. Rather than doing this personally, which can appear as self-serving, provide your host with a feedback form or evaluation and arrange for him or her to present it to the group. This accomplishes two things:

  • It helps you improve your presentation
  • It gives people a confidential way to ask questions or make comments that they may have been afraid to make in front of the group

Be sure your evaluation form allows a place to put a name and phone number in case someone would like to make an appointment or request more information about your services. It can also be used to gather attendees' names and address for follow-up.

Read more in Part 5 -- Following Up After the Presentation

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