Speaking publicly about the benefits of massage is one way to educate potential clients; to build clientele; and to support the massage therapy profession.

Making the leap from working one-on-one with clients to speaking publicly about the benefits of massage can be daunting — but fear not. As a massage therapist, you already have many of the qualities and skills needed to take you beyond the massage room and into public communication.

Understanding the body’s ability to create powerful gestures, standing with a tall spine, conscious breathing and pausing are just a few of the transferrable skills. Add in empathy, professionalism and integrity, and you have a winning combination for public speaking.

“The occupation of being a [massage therapist] naturally lends itself to teaching,” notes Shanta Adams, RMT, a member of Horizons Toastmasters in Toronto, Canada. “We need to be effective speakers to communicate to people about their bodies and health.”

Here are seven tips to help you become a better public speaker.

1. Create structure. The spine provides structural support to maintain an upright posture and help balance the body. In much the same way, the structure of a speech provides the framework with an opening, body of the speech and a closing. Creating a structure for a speech allows for stability and balance for both you and your audience.

For the opening of a speech, memorize your first one to two sentences. By doing so, you avoid beginning a speech with um, so, or you know. The memorized opening projects confidence. The body of the speech is generally one to three bullet points within which is a point, a story and an action. To create a powerful conclusion, memorize your closing sentences.

With this structure, you will be adept in creating the framework of your presentation, much like the spine provides a stable attachment for the muscles of the trunk.

2. Embrace physical gestures. As a massage therapist, you have an intimate relationship with muscles, bones and internal organs. You understand how they all work together and how the body responds when there is an injury or a tight muscle.

The same holds true when giving a presentation. Strive to have your physical gestures match your words to establish coherence. Be deliberate with your gestures and don’t be afraid to take up space with an open-arms welcome to your audience; use a full range of motion when demonstrating the benefits of different massage techniques.

Gestures in a speech can support your words, dramatize your ideas and engage your audience. They can be suggestive, emphatic, prompting or descriptive. Your gestures should be smooth and well-timed, much like the strokes of a Swedish massage. Your body is an incredible instrument. Engage your audiences with authentic body gestures that build from the inside out.

3. Engage conscious breathing. The massage therapist will often ask the client to be mindful of the breath during a treatment. The therapist may also notice tightness in the scalene, sternocleidomastoid, trapezius and pectoralis major muscles if the client is stressed and having trouble with deep breathing.

You may see a very similar situation in your audience. Connecting to your own breath during a speech may allow your audience to relax a bit and settle their central nervous systems. They have a better chance of sensing your trust, warmth and passion for the benefits of massage if they can see and feel a relaxed, breathing massage therapist speaking.

“The breath is a self-centering technique in both massage and public speaking,” says Adams.

If you get nervous before a speech, teach people diaphragmatic breathing during your presentations. Teaching and demonstrating this technique will help calm your nerves and relax your audience.

4. Vary vocal tone. You may use hushed tones when speaking to a client before a massage, depending on the location of the treatment. At the very least, your voice is kept to a minimum. During the treatment, the communication between you and the client may also be in a low voice.

When giving a speech, adding vocal variety will energize your points and make them memorable. A soft voice will draw listeners in. A louder voice will have people sitting up straight and paying attention. The use of dialogue voices can be used to help tell a story.

When giving a speech, have someone stand at the back of the room and signal to you regarding your volume with a thumb up or down. Communicate ahead of time so you are not distracted by the volume gesture and use it as a teaching tool. Keep practicing until you feel comfortable with your vocal range.

5. Prepare to pause. A massage therapist knows the body well enough to pause over a muscle that is tight or injured to sense what is going on in the body. Much is the same when it comes to using pauses in your speaking.

Many speakers are nervous when they first get in front of an audience. They tend to speak quickly and may use run-on sentences. Pauses are one of the most dramatic techniques of speaking. They regulate the rhythm of your speech and create space in your presentation for audience members to absorb the information you are delivering.

Begin practicing your pauses by articulating the last word of the sentence and pausing before beginning your next sentence. Go through your speech and insert spaces where you may need to slow down, pause or take a breath. Never be afraid to pause too long. It may feel like forever, but in the appropriate place the effect is powerful.

6. Use eye contact. In the massage room, the only eye contact may be when the client enters or leaves your session. Standing in front of a room full of people can be intimidating when it comes to making eye contact, but today’s speaking style is more conversational, so eye contact is key.

If you are nervous about eye contact, begin in your daily life by noticing your eye contact with the people around you. Do you make eye contact with your partner or children? Do you make eye contact with your coffee barista? How long does it last? What did you learn from the eye contact?

Practicing eye contact on a daily basis will help you become more aware of what feels appropriate, comfortable and authentic to you. Eye contact establishes a sense of rapport, allows the audience to feel involved, and gives you a chance to make an immediate impact with individuals in your audience.

7. Join Toastmasters. Toastmasters International, founded in 1924 by Ralph C. Smedley, is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. With more than 350,000 members from diverse backgrounds, Toastmasters has helped thousands of people become more confident speakers, communicators and leaders.

I joined Toastmasters in 2001 as a former professional jazz dancer. I knew I had information to verbalize. I knew how to move through space. Toastmasters taught me how to integrate the two essential skills to be a more effective communicator.

I believe massage therapists have these skills as well.

You know the benefits of massage. You know the body extremely well. Now is the time to integrate the words and movement for effective public speaking and become a body-based leader in your industry.

Share Your Message

Investing in your public speaking skills will take you beyond the one-on-one massage room to speak about the benefits of massage.

As an embodied person, you have innate and learned skills that transfer beautifully to the art of public speaking. Using these seven tips will help you master the process.

“I have learned how to structure my speeches better and how to respond when someone asks if massages are of a sexual nature,” Adams shares. “Some people still have a lot of misconceptions about what massage therapy really is and does.”

People are yearning to feel better in their bodies; to be seen, to be heard, to be understood, to be told the truth. There is nothing more truthful than the body. It is a powerful instrument and deserves love and respect through your work and with your words. People are longing to hear your message.

Rochelle Rice, CSP, AS, is a nationally recognized speaker, author and educator. She is the only woman in the world to hold both the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation from the National Speakers Association and the Accredited Speaker (AS) designation from Toastmasters International. Her Body-Based Leadership expertise emphasizes the role of the body in effective leadership. Rice is also a Health at Every Size practitioner.