Show Stage Fright the Exit
"I think we, in pharmacy, have a tendency to work behind the scenes and do a lot of good things, but dont let the public know about them," said Tom Brenner, director of pharmaceutical care at York Hospital in York, Pa.
Brenner speaks regularly to senior citizen groups about medication use and also gives occasional speeches on medication safety. He described his public speaking skills as something he has acquired over the years because of his involvement with "a lot of public things."
"You learn to be able to speak in public," Brenner said. "Im not an English major or anything like that. I just like to get up andespecially a topic that Im very familiar withtalk about it."
During National Pharmacy Week in October, Brenner said he had the chance to appear in a locally televised ceremony at which the county commissioners issued a proclamation recognizing the importance of pharmacy.
"They gave us the opportunity to talk for ... five, 10 minutes about medication safety," Brenner said. "Any time we get an opportunity to become visible in the public with pharmacy issues and helping people understand their medications and talk about medication safety, I think its important that we do that."
Brenner said the recent national emphasis on public health issues may create new public-speaking roles for pharmacists.
"Ive been asked a lot of questions about treatments of anthrax. So I think theres an opportunity there," he said.
Ellen Wilcox, ASHPs public relations director, said pharmacists opinions are in demand these days.
"Pharmacists are becoming more visible to consumers and the media," she said. "And, more and more often, reporters are appreciating the expertise pharmacists can bring to a story about health care and medications."
For those just venturing into the public speaking arena, Brenner advised sticking to a familiar topic.
"The key thing is in being very knowledgeable about the topic youre going to speak to," Brenner said. "And your audienceknow who your audience is and what your audience wants to hear, what theyre interested in."
Knowing your audience's attention span is critical, too, Brenner said. "You want to be able to bring across the information in a period of time that youre going to maintain your audiences concentration. You dont want to get up there and speak for 45 minutes on something you could say in 10."
Several Web sites offer practical advice on public speaking:
- Toastmasters International, a nonprofit group, claims to be the worlds largest organization devoted to helping people improve their speaking and communication skills. Club members hone their speaking skills by completing a planned curriculum of assignments and participate in workshops every week or two.
- Professional speaker Tom Antion offers practical tips on issues ranging from constructing and memorizing a speech to the effective use of humor in public presentations.
- Speechtips.com sells prepared speeches for special occasions but also offers basic advice on public speaking.
- Author and physician Morton C. Orman discusses 10 basic principles to overcoming a fear of public speaking.