To complement “Expert Advice: How Can I Educate the Public About the Benefits of Massage Therapy?” in the May 2015 issue of MASSAGE Magazine. Summary: The key to giving a successful public presentation is confidence. These seven habits can help massage therapists build their confidence so they can present effectively and with ease.
Making presentations to your community is an excellent way to promote yourself and your massage therapy practice; however, stepping into the role of speaker might be intimidating, especially if it’s a role you have not yet undertaken.
Every speaker, seasoned or not, gets nervous before speaking, but the individual who is new to speaking may lack self-confidence, while the seasoned speaker does not. Seasoned speakers trust themselves to do well or to be able to get back on track, no matter what arises during a presentation.
Confidence cannot be faked; it’s something you must earn. We call unearned self-confidence arrogance, and arrogance is not received well by an audience. You earn confidence through your successes—and the only way to succeed is to actually get up there and do that presentation. Then build your confidence by taking some time after each presentation to acknowledge and savor what went well.
You’ll make some mistakes, and you can learn what not to do from those—but don’t let your mistakes feed your fear that you are inadequate. Instead, let your enthusiasm for what you have to share blossom and grow bigger by recalling the positive impact your words and demonstrations had on your audience.
With the right focus and attitude, each time you give a presentation you’ll gain more confidence, which will make you a better speaker every time you present.
Here are a few things you can do to become a better speaker:
Have a plan for your talk, with a beginning, middle and end. Keep some cards or a piece of paper nearby with your main points in large print, so you don’t need glasses to read what you wrote. Never read directly from your notes. Instead, pause and refer to your notes occasionally to see if you missed anything important. If you did, simply add it by saying, “I meant to mention … ”
Practice your talk in front of a mirror, friends or a video camera. This will help you remember your main points, give your words a better flow, and inform you on timing for the various parts of your presentation. You’ll also have a chance to notice if you are speaking loudly enough to be heard, and if you have any distracting verbal or physical mannerisms.
Master your mannerisms
A mannerism is not something you do occasionally, but something you unconsciously repeat that distracts your audience from what you are trying to say.
For example, we all say “um” from time to time, but when every sentence is followed by an “um,” that is a mannerism you need to work to correct. It’s hard to listen to what a person is saying when you hear too many “ums.” Learn to pause instead. Every moment you are presenting does not have to be filled with sound; quiet moments are good for emphasis, integration and audience members’ reflection.
Some common physical mannerisms that you’ll want to address include pen-clicking, jingling the change in your pocket and rubbing your hands together.
Begin your talk with a brief pause, while you look at and connect to your audience. Take a big (silent) breath, then begin talking to the individuals in your group, just as you would to a group of friends.
Control the Q&A
Taking questions from your audience can be lively, but it can also be distracting. If you are in the process of making a point, don’t answer a question right then. It’s better for both you and your audience to wait until you have made your point and then take that question. You are in charge of the room. It’s fine to say, “I’ll take your question in just a minute …” and finish what you were saying.
You do not have to answer every question asked of you. If you don’t know the answer, just say so. No one will think less of you. You should not answer questions about specific individual illnesses or injuries; those questions are for private sessions, not your talk. You can simply say that you discuss medical history with each client privately in your practice.
Sometimes you can turn a specific question into a general question and give a general answer. For example, “In general, a history of cancer does not mean an individual cannot benefit from massage, if the right techniques are used.” What if someone disagrees with you? Add “based on my training and experience,” and restate your position. Then move on.
Keep track of time
Start your presentation on time and end it on time. Keep a watch or small clock on the lectern if possible, so that you aren’t looking at your wrist or a wall clock during your presentation. You can also use the stopwatch function on a smart phone to keep close track of the minutes passing. If necessary, end questions with, “Let’s move on to the demonstration now, and I can stay afterward to answer the rest of your questions.”
At the end of your presentation, be available. Bring a small pad and pen so you can write down the name and number of anyone who would like to make an appointment with you or talk to you more in depth about massage therapy. Don’t let one person corner you and crowd out others who are waiting to talk to you. Make your follow-up calls within 24 hours of your presentation for best results.
These habits will help build your confidence, which will make your presentations more interesting and enjoyable—for both you and your audience.
Nancy Toner Weinberger (dynamicequilibrium.com) has been a licensed massage therapist for 40 years, and a certified Trager® Practitioner for 30 years. She has a part-time private practice in Raleigh, North Carolina, writes and teaches. Teaching skills for massage professionals is one of her continuing education specialties. She wrote “Expert Advice: How Can I Educate the Public About the Benefits of Massage Therapy?” for MASSAGE Magazine’s May 2015 print issue.