Stand Up & Talk About It

Calling all clinicians: Be brave, stand up and talk about it.

I’m standing behind the lectern. I look out to the audience. They stare straight back at me; eager looks on their faces. I can see their smart phones, they’re all ready to critique and tweet my every word. I have butterflies in my stomach, my heart is pounding and my legs are shaking. I take a deep breath, smile and begin my presentation.

For many clinicians, speaking at a conference is a daunting task. On the whole, we are comfortable with conducting one to one treatments with our patients and their family members. We feel at ease running group therapy sessions and would not bat an eye lid at speaking with our colleagues at a case conference, but talking to a large, diverse professional crowd sends many of us running for the hills. I have been invited to speak about health technology, in particular mobile working at a number of different forums. I love talking about digital health, as a clinician and as a patient, I have had first-hand experience of the benefits. This new area of practice excites me and I wish to share the passion I have. This is what drives me to seek opportunities to talk with my peers in health and social care.

Overcoming my fear of public speaking has taken time, practice and the support from some wonderful colleagues. My colleagues have given me some valuable tips on presenting, which I’m going to share with you.


Speak from the heart

I was asked to join an event facilitated by Deloitte called ‘Thinking Patients: The digital future of community healthcare.’ Night after night I worked on what I wanted to say. How could I get across my experience? How could I best share my advice? I wasn’t confident I had it right. My CIO at the time, Mr. Bill McAvoy, Director of WWM Consultancy, was also joining the event, so I emailed the ‘script’ I had written to him and asked how he was preparing. He replied to me by saying ‘I am just going to speak from the heart.’ At the time, this left me feeling even more nervous. Did I have enough knowledge and expertise to be able to do this? That evening when I walked in to the room I was confronted with a cluster of suited up gents. My initial thought was that this is going to be a tough gig. I had rehearsed a whole speech, but when we sat around a large table to begin, I realized it wasn’t going to be the right environment for what I had prepared. At that moment, I remembered Bill’s words ‘speak from the heart.’ So, I took a risk, I folded up my notes and did just that. To my surprise my story and message was well received and it felt great.


Something to take home

My colleagues and I had two abstracts selected to present at an International Digital Health Conference. We were very excited as the event was being organised by the King’s Fund and delegates were coming from around the globe. My mentor and good friend Ms. Liz Francis, a Service Re-design Manager and Clinician, who co-authored the abstracts and led on the project, steered our preparations in the right direction. We knew this was a great opportunity to showcase mobile working. We wanted to be different and to stand out. Liz directed us to not make the presentation too complex; to just keep it simple. She warned that a PowerPoint loaded with text was not going to be read by anyone in the audience and she emphasised that the slide deck needed to be smart, visual and informative. Liz made us think about our different backgrounds and unique contributions and how we could reflect that in the presentation. This was important, as most likely the audience would be made of different professionals each with different interests and needs. Liz guided us to make sure we were giving the audience something to take away from our lessons learnt - something the audience could try. Utilising Liz’s strategies we put together two very unique and powerful presentations.


Who are you doing this for?

I am very fortunate to have a good friend and colleague who I can consider my moral sounding board, Ms. Helen Cherry, Registered Nurse and Queen’s Nurse. Helen is a master in enabling communication and connecting. No matter what I am working on; blog, application, business plan; I seek her guidance. When I practice, Helen helps to time my presentations; she guides me to keep it short, sharp and to the point. Helen’s creativity helps me to think about doing things differently. Helen’s passion is making sure that communications are accessible to all. For example, think about the members of the audience who may have visual and hearing difficulties. Helen’s advice is to check the volume, lighting, text size and caption all videos. Always ask if there is going to be a Speech to Text Reporter (STTR) at the event, as this benefits in the audience and also provides a transcript of the presentations. Helen’s guides me to never lose sight of why I am doing this. She reminds me that my presentation messages always have to come back to how to engage and empower our patients and strive for better health outcomes.

As clinicians, our focus is on delivering high quality healthcare for the people we work with. We work in fast paced services with ever increasing productivity demands. This makes it challenging to capture the good work we do, let alone to take time off to attend an event, but we can’t let this be an excuse. Giving back to the wider healthcare community should be a moral obligation of us all. Doing a presentation is just one way to share your lessons learnt and celebrate your achievements. I hope you can use these words of wisdom from my colleagues to help shape your own message and prepare a presentation for an event. It is a very rewarding experience.

Be brave.

Stand up and talk about it.


























Melissa Andison,

Clinical Lead SystmOne Project Team / Director of OTTechHealthcare Consultancy / Occupational Therapist LinkedIn Profile

Read Melissa's TOP 10 Tips for speaking at a conference

This is part of our OT Series

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