5 Things To Know Before Your First Speaking Engagement

As a healthcare professional, speaking at a conference is a great way to share your knowledge, establish yourself as an expert, and network with peers. But if you're new to public speaking, the thought of addressing a crowd of patients and advocates can be daunting. Here are five things to know before your first healthcare conference speech to help you prepare and succeed.

1. Understand your audience

Before you start crafting your speech, it's essential to have a clear picture of who will be in the audience. What is their level of expertise on the topic? What are their biggest challenges and interests? Are they looking for practical takeaways or high-level research insights?

Understanding your audience will guide everything from the language you use to the examples you provide. As a healthcare professional speaking to others with similar experience, you can assume a certain baseline of medical knowledge. But tailoring your content to their specific needs and concerns will make your speech more engaging and valuable.

Keep it accessible!

When speaking at a healthcare conference, there is a good chance there will be conference goers who have a form of sensory impairment. Vision and hearing impairment are often the most thought of in these events. Providing subtitles, image descriptions, and not over relying on text heavy slides are simple ways you can make sure everyone feels included. However, also think about making sure your media isn’t too loud, not including flashing lights or video, or other things that might be over stimulating to certain patients.

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2. Focus on your key message

Even though you might want to amaze everyone with your vast amounts of knowledge, with limited time, you can't cover everything about your topic. Identify the core message you want to convey – the one key insight or finding you want the audience to remember. This will be your North Star as you craft your speech, ensuring everything you say supports that central point.

In healthcare, your message might be a breakthrough in treatment, an emerging trend, or a call to action on a critical issue. Make sure your message is clear, concise, and relevant to your audience's work.

If need be, write your core idea on your hand so you don’t lose focus if you fear you might meander from the point.

3. Use storytelling techniques

Data and research are crucial in healthcare, but presenting them in a dry, academic way can lose your audience. Incorporate storytelling techniques to make your information more engaging and memorable. Share case studies, patient stories (made anonymous for privacy), or your personal journey in pursuing this research or topic.

Storytelling is how we naturally process information, so it makes your speech more relatable and impactful. Visual aids like slides or videos can further enhance your story and support your message.

And don’t be afraid to use appropriate humor. Everyone likes to laugh if your topic welcomes it.

4. Practice, practice, practice

Public speaking is a skill that improves with practice. Don't wait until the day before the conference to rehearse your speech. Start practicing weeks in advance, ideally in front of others, whether that's colleagues, friends, or family.

Pay attention to your pacing, tone, body language, and use of visuals. Get feedback from others on areas to improve. The more comfortable you are with the material, the better you'll come across on stage.

And the better you know your speech, the less likely you’ll feel the need to look at note cards or read straight from your slides.

Pro tip

With the exception of reading quotes and making your slides accessible to vision impaired attendees, you shouldn’t read your slides. Imagine going to a movie where the actors are reading from their scripts... Awkward.

5. Prepare for questions

The Q&A session after your speech can be just as important as the speech itself. Anticipate the questions the audience might ask and prepare thoughtful responses. This shows you've considered different perspectives and solidifies your expertise.

If you're caught off guard by a question, it's okay to take a moment to think before responding. Don't be afraid to say you'll follow up with more information after the conference if you can't answer fully on the spot. This is not the best time to try improv.


Speaking at a healthcare conference is a great opportunity to contribute to the field and advance your career. By understanding your audience, focusing on your key message, using storytelling, practicing extensively, and preparing for questions, you'll deliver a successful and impactful first speech. Embrace the experience as a chance to learn and grow as a professional and presenter.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The SocialHealthNetwork.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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