Speaking at non-academic events should be a fun and easy way for you to interact with the local community, employers, and potential patients. If you hate public speaking, consider more one-on-one interactions like an Ask the Doc table at a health fair. If you are comfortable with public speaking, use this skill to educate potential patients on topics and use this as a way to build relationships.
Considering the goal is to make a good impression, put your best effort forward. The following tips are based from years of observing what does and doesn’t work.
Wear something you are comfortable in. If you don’t normally wear a tie or high heels, don’t. Wear business attire or pressed scrubs. Consider wearing a lab coat if wearing scrubs. It looks both “doctory” and professional. But, don’t wear a lab coat over regular dress up clothes. Well-groomed fingernails and clean shoes are a must – as they are typically two areas people tend to notice. Ladies, wear a little foundation and be sure to put on powder. Mascara, blush/bronzer, and lip color will enhance your face. Men, be sure to be clean shaven and have a fresh haircut. Most important, look “clean” – clothes, hair, overall appearance. No one wants to go to a doctor that looks like they just rolled out of bed.
Keep the prepared talk about 20 – 30 minutes, allowing time for questions. It’s great to survey the audience (if it is small enough) about what they are interested in hearing about before you start. Consider using PowerPoint, rather than notes. Keep slides simple and don’t put everything you plan to say on the slide. No one wants to a hear a presenter read the presentation. Only use pictures where they enhance the concept, not just to look nice (i.e.: picture of cancerous lungs for smoking cessation). Be sure to speak in layman’s terms or explain medical terms, such as using the phrase high blood pressure in place of hypertension.
Take care not to be salesy about yourself or the practice. Let your presentation, engagement with the audience and knowledge be the sales tool.
Participants usually appreciate anything they can have as a take away. Develop a one page “pearls of wisdom” on the topic that they can take and be sure it has your logo, website, address, and phone number on it. Bring business cards. If additional literature is available on the topic or about the practice, feel free to have available. These handouts are a great way to softly sell yourself.
In short, have fun with it and try to engage the audience. These people could be great potential patients!