Wednesday, August 21, 2013

You Can Give a Great Live Presentation!

by Honora Lee Wolfe

It has been my experience with practitioners and students everywhere I teach, that giving short lectures and presentations is a great way to grow a private practice. However, when you are lucky enough to have a group of people to speak to, the first rule is Don’t Be Boring! After all, you are attempting, by doing the talk in the first place, to come across as knowledgeable, personable, credible, approachable. In other words, you want to be, in the minds of the audience, the ‘go to guy’ for the subject about which you are lecturing.

Even if you are only speaking for 15-20 minutes, there are a few simple methods and rules that will improve the odds that your audience is impressed, at least enough to take your card or brochure, and possibly enough to make an appointment with you on the spot!

First lets talk about Presentation Style

There are many things you can do to improve your presentation style. Here are just a few tried and true methods.

1. Open your talk by announcing a serious problem. For example, “It is estimated that 15 years from today, there will be twice as many diabetics in the US than there are today.” Or, “Did you know that loss of productivity and work time due to carpal tunnel syndrome costs the US over $500 million per year?” This grabs your listeners’ attention, makes them think and gives them a reason to listen to the rest of your talk.

2. Don’t be afraid to pause. To emphasize an important statement, take a breath and make eye contact with someone in the audience. Count to three before you start to speak again.

3. Change your tone of voice, facial expression, and body position. Nothing puts listeners to sleep faster than a monotone voice and a flat, affectless face. Move about the room if that is a possibility; this allows you to make specific, close-up contact with lots of people.

Visual Aids

1. Use charts, graphs, color, interesting overheads. Draw pictures on a whiteboard.
2. Give handouts. These can be an outline of your talk, or a related article or research. Make sure your contact info is written or printed on EVERY piece of paper that you hand out. Or, staple your card or brochure on the back of the handout materials.
3. If you are asking for feedback or questions from the audience, you might write them all down on a whiteboard or flipchart and then answer them. This allows for audience participation and engagement in your talk.
4. If you are going to do a demonstration, make sure you time it so that you know it will fit. Be sure to leave time for audience comments and questions. Having a volunteer with you for such demos is a good idea.

Audience Interaction

1. Leave time for questions. Think about what the most likely questions might be and what your answers are. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but if you give me your email address I’ll see what I can find out.”
2. Ask for a show of hands about something. “How many of you have ever had a migraine headache?” or “How many of you have a friend or family member with heart disease?”
3. Ask for a volunteer for something... as long as it’s not something that you need them to sign a treatment release to participate in!
4. Answer a question with a question. “Well, what do you think is the appropriate type of exercise for someone with a BMI of 30?” or, “There are many possible answers to that question; are you more interested in herbal medicine, acupuncture, or home self-care?” or, “I can think of a number of possible foods that could be beneficial, but tell me a few foods that you eat every day and lets analyze those first.”

Thinking About Content

1. Ask yourself before every presentation, “How does the content of my talk benefit my listeners?” Make sure there is something that your listeners will take away with them that applies to their lives; especially something they will want to tell their friends, family, and co-workers about the next day!
2. If you make a mistake, be ready to laugh about it. If the talk bombs, be willing to analyze your mistakes and try again.
3. If you use humor, make sure it is appropriate for the audience. It’s ok to poke fun at yourself, but be careful who else you poke fun at in a crowd. If you aren’t good at humor, be warm and friendly, but stay away from jokes.
4. Remember the old cliche, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them; then tell them; then tell them what you told them.” Summarize the main points at the end of your lecture to make sure that the audience knows what was most important.

Who would want me to speak to them?


Look in the Sunday paper under groups and associations. Look in the Yellow Pages under Associations. Create a short letter introducing yourself and offering a few different talks. Keep this piece short and to the point. For example, if you want to speak to a local chapter of the American Diabetes Society, you might offer two or three different length talks with slightly different subject matter all related to how acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine can help blood sugar, weight control, or maintaining peripheral blood circulation. Offer to send them a sample of research supporting your assertions or to cite/handout such research at the talk. Tell them when you are available and how to reach you. Wait a week and follow up with a phone call, email, or both. You’ll get engagements if you are persistent.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The more often you speak in public, the better you will get at it. You will learn to involve your audience, gauge what their level of interest is, tell jokes with aplomb, use your content with grace and flexibility, create better handouts and visuals, and master stage fright (yes, everyone gets it, even seasoned speakers). One thing to remember every time you get in front of a group of people is that they would not be there if they did not want to hear you, like you, and like your message; that’s where you start from before you even open your mouth in most cases. If you have something interesting to say and you say it even reasonably well, with humanness and a humble confidence, you’ll do fine. And, yes, some of the people in the audience will, eventually, become your patients.

Unless you are absolutely terrified of other people and public speaking gives you heart palpitations, it is one of the most reliable ways to build your practice. So get out there and connect with more potential patients who could benefit from our wonderful medicine. Do it today!

For more information on building your practice, see the new, fully-revised (2013) edition of  Points for Profit: The Essential Guide to Practice Success for Acupuncturists by Honora Wolfe and Marilyn Allen. (Available October, 2013.)

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