Getting the Most Out of Public Speaking

Joanna M. Hagan

Many times I hear the comment, “Public speaking does not work.” My response is, “Do you know how to “work” public speaking?” By “work” I mean do you know how to maximize each and every opportunity your public-speaking engagement can offer you? Listed below are just five tips that can make or break the effectiveness of a speech. They will help to create a climate where patients are making appointments at the end of your speech.

Identify the groups/organizations to which you want to speak

Learn as much about that organization as you can before you pick up the phone or write that e-mail. Find out who the program’s contact person is and learn about the needs, goals and purpose of the organization. Identify the average age, male-female distribution, values orientation, concerns or any other characteristics that would affect the interests of the audience. Your program must meet some need or interest of the group and be attractive to their membership. It must “draw” the membership to the meeting and at the same time educate them about what you do.

Timing is everything

Call or write early enough for the right organization to book you. To get just that group, sometimes you have to connect with them a year ahead of time. Organizations usually book out three months prior or longer, so don’t expect to get something for the next week. Oh, by the way, watch your time on your speech. There is nothing worse than a speaker who drones on or takes questions and answers over the time limit. Remember, the membership has other things to do that day, particularly if it is a business meeting. Respect the time of the organization and they will respect you.

Get the organization to promote you

In order to get the organization to help you, you must help them. You do that by having the following already prepared and available for their use:

    • A digital photo to put in their newsletter or on their Web site
    • A short bio that they can publish to promote your credibility
    • A short pre-speech article about the topic of which you will be speaking

Follow up to be sure that the organization makes the media announcement of your speech and that your speech will be announced in the meetings prior to the talk.

Promote your speaking events to your patients and prospective patients

 When you are booked for a talk, have an updated schedule prominently displayed in your office.

    • Print in your newsletter your three-month schedule or send e-mail notices of your speaking events to prospective and current patients alike
    • Give a handout of your speaking schedule to every patient with every paid bill. Invite them to attend the organization’s meeting and bring a friend. The organizations will appreciate the publicity and the increased attendance at meetings.
    • Promote your speaking schedule on your Web site

Set up a sign-in table and bring your appointment book (Have someone help you!)

This is the most important part of your talk.

    • The sign-in sheet and appointment book: Have a sign-in sheet or book that asks for name, address, e-mail, phone or any areas of interest they might have
    • Always get their permission first before you send them something and let them know the purpose of the sign-in sheet
    • Have your appointment book available and be ready to book appointments right after the speech. Have someone help you with this.
    • Keep in mind that even if no one books at that time, collecting data from interested parties is the beginning of a relationship. You will be able to continue the dialog by sending the interested contacts newsletters or other material. Many practitioners report that sometimes it takes about six months to a year before someone shows up at their door for an appointment after a speech. This is a numbers game. The more speeches you give, the more patients that will come into your office over time. This is a lengthy and consistent process that requires commitment in order for it to be a winning strategy.

By implementing just these five tips, I guarantee you will see improved results from your previous speeches, unless of course you already knew how to work public speaking. I wish you all successful healing.


Joanna M. Hagan has 29 years of health-care marketing and finance -management experience. She comes from the insurance/HMO world and has assisted hundreds of physicians in building their practices by judicial use of marketing through networks. She also created her own coaching business in 1997. She created the first functional medical savings account program in the State of Arizona and is noted for creating the first group plan for the unemployed in the state. She is the current director of career services for the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and offers individualized coaching for success to any and all students and alumni. She has just recently been honored as “Faculty of the Year” for 2005 and for her work with the AANP and the profession.

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