I attend lots of conferences. Most are local. Many are state. Some are national. I have noticed a very disturbing pattern that I believe is contributing to our profession not being recognized for the value we have to contribute. I am referring to the ability to talk to other people.
While at the annual AAMI conference in Denver, I was in many meetings. These were in large rooms, many with poor acoustics. The use of microphones was a requirement. Some of these meetings had 50 or more participants in them. These participants were, in most cases, the leaders of the professions or their local organizations. I became totally frustrated and embarrassed at the inability of half of these HTM professionals to introduce themselves in a manner that was understandable, of adequate volume to be heard by all, and was succinct to the topics of interest to the rest of the group.
Let me offer a few tips to make us more professional in all of our meetings, both in and out of the hospital.
When addressing a group, especially a large group, it is customary to stand up, look at your audience, make eye contact, and scan the room as you make your talk.
So many of these individuals seemed to have no idea that they were in a room with other people. They seemed to be carrying on a conversation with themselves instead of an esteemed group of colleagues.
Although many started speaking in a normal volume, as they became lost in their thoughts, their volume drifted down into a whisper and their chins sometimes touched their chests. They seemed to lose awareness of the audience.
Speaking into a microphone is an art. It takes practice. The most difficult is admittedly a hand-held that is passed from person to person. As you turn your head, become animated, and move about, the microphone moves closer and farther from your mouth, resulting in some very frustrating volume changes for your audience. Holding it the correct distance from your mouth and maintaining this distance can be very challenging.
I have developed a foolproof technique. 1) Grasp the microphone just below the windscreen (the metal mesh ball at the top). 2) Place all four fingers around the microphone. 3) While holding the microphone with your fingers, stick your thumb up, like you are making the “thumbs-up” sign. 4) Touch your thumb to your chin while speaking into the microphone. This maintains a perfect distance, allowing you to turn your head and move about without varying the distance between your mouth and the microphone.
It is tempting to launch into a self-aggrandizing tirade when you have the microphone and the attention of a roomful of people. But trust me, you are doing more harm than good when you go off touting your accomplishments or travels if they do not directly relate to the subject at hand. Rehearse, think ahead, and keep it short and sweet.
Here are a few key items to remember as you prepare to attend a meeting:
Stand Up. In all but a very small meeting with people you know very well, it is a sign of respect to stand up when making your initial introduction or presenting an important point.
Look at your audience. Sales 101. Engage. All meetings between people are sales opportunities. You are working together to achieve a common goal, but if you have an idea, your goal is to have it embraced and accepted by the others. Professionalism is key. Look various members of the audience directly in the eye. It makes your points seem more believable and you seem more trustworthy.
Speak Up! Yes, in HTM, we largely come from the realm of engineers and techies. But that is no excuse to not be able to speak up and ennunciate. Practice controlling the volume of your voice, matching your volume to the size of the room and the ambient noise present. And remember, too loud is as bad as too soft.
Hold the microphone stable. Use the thumb on chin technique to keep consistent volume and look like a pro.
Think ahead. Consider your audience, what they are interested in, and what you could say that would be meaningful to them.
Keep it topical. Listen to the instructions from the moderator, and pay attention to the kinds of things that the people before you told the group. Learn from them, and make your talk better than theirs by adding things they omitted and omitting things they should have left out.
Practice. Nothing replaces practice. Every point here can be vastly improved with practice. Get in front of the bathroom mirror and practice all of the items in this list.
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