Karol Ward, LCSW offers insight into how practitioners can speak to clients and communicate their services through public speaking.

 by Karol Ward, LCSW

    A solid skill for expanding your practice and communicating your integrative services is through public speaking.  This communication tool is one that will serve you well when you are ready to increase your client base and get the word out about the benefits of integrative healthcare.  The knowledge of your topic, structure of your speech and the words you choose all have the power to engage your audience. Whether you are doing a presentation at a conference or a more casual neighborhood talk, knowing how to speak “for the ear” will help you connect to potential new clients.

     Speaking for the ear takes into account how your listeners absorb information when they are sitting in an audience. Unless you are in a formal setting and presenting clinical information to your colleagues, choosing clear, illustrative language is what will help demystify any unfamiliar aspects of your practice.  The ability to speak in a conversational manner about what you do creates a rapport with your audience. 

     When you’re speaking for the ear, it is my recommendation that you adjust any words or phrases that cannot be easily absorbed the first time they are heard.  This has nothing to do with the intelligence of your audience, but more to do with their ability to take in information in the moment. If the audience were reading your presentation, they would have the luxury of going back over the page to analyze the details.  However, when we listen to a speaker, we have less time to grasp what we are hearing and therefore the language needs to be clear and descriptive. 

     Case studies can be a fascinating part of your presentation and a great example of speaking for the ear.  They bring to life the work you do, humanizing the information you present and involving the audience by taking them on a journey.  As with all stories, there should be a clear beginning, middle and end.   Each of those segments should have descriptive language and vivid imagery.  Your listeners should be able to picture your clients, their symptoms and the process of recovery.  When you are considering using a case study, go through each part of the study and read it out loud.  Have friends or colleagues not in your field listen to it and ask them if they understood the case and whether or not they found it held their interest.  Use their observations to make any adjustments. 

     As with any audience, one size does not fit all.  Some elements of your speech may work for one group but not another.  Knowing the general concerns of an audience before you speak will help you decide what to add or subtract from your topic. You can keep the basic structure of your presentation, but you will want to make some changes depending on your listeners.  When you have the opportunity to present to a new audience, take the time to use your innate powers of observation and ask a few questions. 

• What are the demographics of this particular audience?
• What is their level of expertise? 
• What are they eager to learn about?
• How can the information you present be implemented in their everyday lives?

     The universal goal of most speakers is to form a bond with their audiences.  When you write for the ear and take into account the needs of your listeners, you create that kind of connection with them. By knowing who your audience is and adjusting your language, you will be able to convey in a clear conversational manner, the benefits of your services.  They in turn, will be able to take in your information and have their health concerns addressed.  Give them the attention they deserve, and you will be rewarded with the opportunity to expand your practice.

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Karol Ward, LCWS, is a communication consultant and the author of Find Your Inner Voice: Using Instinct and Intuition through the Body-Mind Connection, which is to be published by Career Press in January 2009. For more information on Karol, go to www.karolward.com.