As a dentist, it’s often your responsibility to engage with patients and provide them with a positive experience at your practice, whether you’re the proprietor or an associate.
You also may get the opportunity to speak at conferences, establish professional connections, establish business partnerships, and more.
For all of these occasions, good public speaking skills can help you. In a dental practice, public speaking skills can help you establish rapport with your patients. As the leader of a dental team, public speaking skills can help you speak succinctly and maintain a positive internal culture. And when it comes to networking, public speaking skills can help you engage with other dental professionals and groups.
Because public speaking can be so important for dentists, it’s equally important to know how to speak publicly.
Here are some things you can try in order to engage your patients, internal team, audiences, professional associates, and more.
Know Your Audience
It requires a certain amount of empathy to be a good public speaker. It helps to know how to deliver information in a way that makes your audience receptive to what you're trying to tell them.
One way to do that is to pick up cues from the way they dress and how they present themselves. Anxious people may pick at their nails or have a hard time making eye contact. Engaged individuals may touch their face, cradle their chins, or furrow their brows.
The age of your audience is another important factor. When speaking to a child, for instance, it helps to speak on their level without coming across as condescending. You can draw them in by noticing a detail of their clothing or asking topical questions about their lives, such as pets or school. This can help build trust with a younger audience to make pediatric patients feel more at ease in your office.
Speak from the Heart
Although speaking can require you to cater your speech to a certain audience, it’s still important for your words to come from you. Projecting your own personality is crucial to establishing trust.
This is just as important in an individual client consultation as it is when presenting a speech at a convention. If you're funny, use humor. If you are serious, lead with sincerity.
People may expect you to be a certain way, but they are often waiting for you to show them who you are.
When you're talking with any group of people, even if it’s a patient and their family, it’s important to choose your tone of voice, verbal pacing, and more. This and more is encompassed in the concept of delivery.
Nervous people tend to speak too quickly, running words together and losing their audience. At the other end of the spectrum are "slow talkers," who bore their listeners. You want to pace yourself.
Speaking of pacing, you'll seem more authoritative if you stand still when speaking before a group. Bryn Freedman, speaking at a TED workshop, advised people to stand with their feet roughly six inches apart and squeeze their toes like holding on to a tree branch to keep you still and focused.
Visuals are critical parts of speaking and presentations. Teachers have used blackboards and whiteboards to draw the attention of their students for generations. The same is true for bullet points in a slide deck or PowerPoint presentation.
Not only do visual aids help other people to understand your points better, but they also give you an anchor, something to focus on. Whether you're showing a patient why they need a new crown, or explaining to the planning board why you need to expand your facilities, visuals will give your points clarity.
You may always dislike giving presentations, but they generally go more smoothly the more you practice. So it stands to reason that practice can help you get through an upcoming charity event or presentation to the associates at your practice. We live in an era where it's simple to record yourself speaking and iron out glitches — are you remembering to smile? — or you can do it the old-fashioned way by looking in the mirror and rehearsing your talk.
You don't have to be the life of the party to be a good public speaker. At the end of the day, you are a dentist, not a politician. You really just need to be authentic, pace yourself, understand your audience, and practice when you need to speak before a group.
Learning to communicate effectively is an important part of growing your dental practice and managing the people who work for you. For more resources like this, download Treloar & Heisel's free ebook, Managing People in Your Dental Practice.
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