As a healthcare professional, public speaking is a vital form of communication used at ceremonies, demonstrations, informative presentations, and other events to engage and educate audiences.

How to speak effectively

Public speaking requires the speaker to first think about the audience. You must think, “Who is this audience? What are they looking to learn? What do they have to gain by attending this event? What events led them to attend this event?” You can then tailor the presentation to meet the expectations of the audience in a way that is most beneficial and interesting to them – the most important aspect of effective public speaking.

Once you understand your audience, you should fine tune the delivery of the speech by rehearsing the talking points and presentation. Speak using an outline, rather than writing out your speech word-for-word – you’re going for a relaxed, extemporaneous delivery in which you make eye contact with the audience, rather than reading a canned speech from the podium.

Rehearsal will help you reduce nervousness and exhibit confidence, provide concise and valuable information, and utilize proper grammar and pronunciation. Also, rehearsal is the only way to know if your presentation is the appropriate length for the time allotted – this is less important if you’re the only speaker of the day, but it’s critical if you’re presenting a workshop as part of a full day of programming.

Often, using a PowerPoint can help the audience absorb what you’re saying. Charts and graphs can be a great way to convey quantitative information, but make sure you point out what you want the audience to understand. While you should certainly refer to your PowerPoint, don’t read it as part of the presentation, as that’s tedious for your audience – instead, limit the words on each slide. Don’t forget to include blank slides in your presentation when you don’t have something meaningful to project, as this will direct the audience’s focus back to you, the speaker.

Effective speakers don’t focus on themselves during a presentation – therefore, listening to the opinions, ideas, and questions the audience may have will enhance the audience’s experience and create a more effective presentation. So it’s important to consider the question-and-answer session after the speech. What are you likely to be asked? How can you prepare for those questions? If you get a question you’re not expecting and don’t know the answer, say so – and be prepared to direct the person questioning to where they might find out.

The consequences of not connecting with your audience

When you fail to connect with your audience, the effectiveness of your speech is reduced. This lack of connection leads to audience disengagement, ineffective delivery of the information itself, and could hurt your reputation as a speaker.

Most presentations in the healthcare system are designed to educate others on new medical discoveries, techniques, or skills that can be used to save lives. In short, the information is important – therefore, it’s important that you work to be as effective as you can as a speaker.

Most common public speaking mishaps

No speech will ever be completely perfect, but following the techniques of effective public speaking will help all public speakers to avoid the most common public speaking mishaps.

The following items are some of the most common public speaking mistakes:

  • Lack of audience connection
  • Lack of preparation and rehearsal
  • Reading from slides or over-dependence on visuals
  • Lack of emotion or use of monotone voice
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Content focus too advanced or too simple for the audience
  • Not ending on a strong note
  • Use of jargon or incorrect grammar

Our annual student anesthesia seminar is a great place to enhance your public speaking skills

Every spring, we hold our annual student anesthesia seminar to help current CRNAs earn continuing education credits by observing and learning from the presentations of others in their field. SRNAs have the opportunity to enhance their public speaking skills by providing an informative speech on their current research.

For more information on our annual seminars visit