elephant-in-roomTo complement the article “Speak Out: Build Clientele with Presentations” in the November 2014 issue of MASSAGE Magazine. Summary: Massage therapists can overcome a fear of public speaking by working on the five elements that make a good speaker: posture, voice, gestures, eye contact and visual aids.

Let’s address the elephant in the room. We’ve all heard how public speaking is many people’s biggest fear. Recent research supports this perception; in an October 2014 poll, the Chapman Survey on American Fears, public speaking ranked among the top five things participants said they feared most.​ 

If you are afraid of speaking in public, I respectfully suggest you do everything in your power to get over it so you can use presenting as a way to get more exposure as a massage therapist, attain more authority in your community, and gain respect as an expert in your field.

5 Elements of a Good Speaker:

1. Posture

Not to scare you, but from the first moment you step in front of the audience, people will judge you. According to Carol Kinsey Goman, author of The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work, studies have found nonverbal cues have more than four times the impact on the impression you make than anything you say. That should put you at ease, since nonverbal cues can often be fixed quite easily.

The way you carry yourself is the first thing your audience will notice, so it is critical you stand tall and upright, yet without looking rigid. Hold your head up; let your arms hang naturally at your sides or rest them on the lecturn, but do not fold them across your chest, cross them behind your back, or rest one hand on your hip, as none of these postures inspire confidence.

2. Voice

The way you speak indicates many things; people form opinions on your education, cultural background, and financial level based on it. Speak clearly with appropriate volume, diction and intonation. No one wants to listen to someone stumble over words, mumble into the microphone or use words the audience doesn’t know. Be careful to not use industry jargon or purposefully big words. If you are trying to impress the audience with your knowledge, you may come across as a know-it-all and alienate it.

A big mistake new speakers make is speaking too fast, at too high a pitch. It is actually a good practice to drop your voice slightly to be a little deeper than usual, so if you are nervous, you don’t come out squeaking.

3. Gestures

Wringing your hands, or moving them too much, can be off-putting. Hand movement and gestures should emphasize and enhance your words and message, rather than distract from them.

4. Eyes

Make eye contact with as many audience members as possible. Continuously scan the room. In smaller venues, you will be able to see people’s eyes. Don’t stare, but do make eye contact. Novice speakers often favor their dominant-hand side, so be sure to share yourself with both sides of the room.

5. Visual Aids

Standing onstage alone, without props, can be difficult. Luckily, there are many options for visual aids to support your message. If you like the idea of creating a snazzy presentation to go along with your talk, there are software options such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Prezi.com or Apple’s Keynote. You can go old-school and use a paper easel or whiteboard; however, using technology gives your talk a more polished image. It can also serve as a prompt to help you remember key components of your presentation, since you can keep notes on your computer visible only to you, rather than hold notecards.

If you use software, your slides can be printed as handouts to give your audience. Slides can also be used as a non-salesy way to gather attendants’ email addresses. Simply announce that you will send audience members a copy of your presentation if they email you a request. By gathering emails, you will have the ability to stay in contact with attendees to continue the relationship, hopefully turning many of them into clients.

Irene Diamond copyAbout the Author

Irene Diamond, R.T., is a rehabilitation therapist and creator of The Successful Massage Therapist online resource center. She is founder of Active Myofascial Therapy—The Diamond Method, and a Massage Therapy Hall of Fame inductee. She is dedicated to helping thera-preneurs double and triple their income, their client base and their happiness. Request her free marketing tips at www.irenediamond.com.

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