Public Speaking Tips for NDs: Spreading the Work of Naturopathic Medicine

Public Speaking Tips: Spreading the Work of Naturopathic Medicine

When I was a student in naturopathic medical school in the early ‘80s, one of my teachers declared: “To be a practitioner in the world of natural medicine you also have to be someone who can stand up in front of a group and give a talk.” The reason? So few people understood who we were and what we did, that you had to advocate for the profession and help spread the word.
Although since then we’ve made great strides in informing the public about what we do, my teacher’s words still ring true: anyone who practices or loves natural medicine needs to be able to stand up and advocate for it. We often have the opportunity to share what we do and inform people about our beautiful medicine.

Yet standing up in front of people and giving a talk is one of the most universal fears. Patients, students, and colleagues regularly describe to me their anxiety and feelings of being totally overwhelmed–all the way to full-blown panic attacks–at having to make a presentation.

That said, I think most of us can do a good enough job giving a talk, even if the idea of it might be terrifying. Though I am not personally prone to performance anxiety, over years of coaching others, I’ve gathered plenty of tips, tricks, and advice on how to both best prepare for a talk and reduce anxiety before and during the event. So if you’re the anxious sort, read on!

With a little preparation, any of us can give a good presentation. Click here on Dr Rothenberg article for my basic recommendations and homeopathic remedy recommendations.

Here are few further thoughts about good nervous vs. bad nervous. In the sports psychology world where I live (think: she raised three elite athletes,) we know at a certain point, the physical ability matters but the mental game is far more essential. One aspect has to do with what’s called good nervous.  You can imagine not nervous enough, where you don’t care and basically don’t show up. This would be the lecturer who has not done their homework, maybe arrives a bit late, is not dressed appropriately and who does not know ahead of time their audience and the kind of expectations there are for the lecture. And everyone knows what too nervous looks like: the presenter looks terrified, is scattered, may be trying to control their breathing; their focus is poor—clearly this is not the state from which anyone wants to give a talk.

Here’s what good nervous is about for me: it’s about really caring about both the process of preparation and about the outcome. It’s about doing everything possible in my power to get what I want, which is a good enough talk, maybe planting some seeds for people in the audience, maybe it’s even wowing the crowd.  It’s about feeling a little nervous and excited as part of my determination; it’s empowering and motivating and builds upon itself.  So, that’s where I work to get before every talk and each lecture I give. I’ve had a life of opportunities to be on the spot and practice getting to good nervous– lecturing to 100s of students or colleagues, testifying at the State House, playing competitive volleyball, working with challenging patients, juggling the ridiculous needs of three teenagers- perhaps that was my best training ever-and now going after breast cancer. I have practiced over and again how to have clear channels to a sea of calm and the land of good nervous. It s like anything you practice often, it becomes second nature.  So I know why it comes easy to me because I have worked this muscle– but I tell you what, I’m darn happy for it every time I am introduced on a podium, in a school auditorium, sitting in front of a microphone for an interview, etc.

I will finish up this article by shifting from a fear of giving a talk, to encouragement to giving them often and becoming the go-to expert on Naturopathic Medicine. Recently on the NatChat discussion list there has been ample discussion about how to build a practice and it’s true there are many ways to do so. I contend that one way is to get comfortable giving talks, do a lot of them and specialize!

After I graduated from naturopathic school, I moved to Omaha, Nebraska for a few years with my spanky new ND degree & my spanky new husband, Paul Herscu ND, MPH. Truly there was almost no one in that region who knew much about natural medicine in 1986. We had gone to the state to help work on legislation to license naturopathic doctors in the state, so had ample opportunities to talk about what we did. I do not know what motivated me, what propelled me, what put the fire in my belly to get out there to speak to individuals or groups, to invite myself into meetings of organizations who were looking for speakers. Some of the places I spoke included: at the state legislature in Lincoln, at Mother of twins clubs, Kiwanis club meetings, continuing education classes for nurses, high school biology classes, La Leche League meetings, church groups, Girl Scout troops etc. I would have part of my talk on something that I knew would catch the eye or interest of the intended group, to get people in the door, (i.e. the naturopathic treatment of ___________ (fill in the blank with allergies, menopause, high cholesterol, PMS, etc.,) then a more lengthy part of the talk would be quite general on what naturopathic medicine is and what a naturopathic physician does. That second part of my talk, I can do in my sleep and probably have! By spreading the word, and answering the many questions people had, my practice grew and word of mouth kept that going.

I got good at telling an audience what I am going to tell them, then telling it and then telling them what I told them.  In other words, I would start with a preview, offer my content and end with a brief review. Pretty soon I found myself being referred to as an expert.

Funny for someone right out to of school, barely 25, but I rolled with it.
For a talk on Naturopathic Medicine here are the main points I try to emphasize:

  • Naturopathic Medicine is a gentle effective medicineTreatment with Naturopathic Medicine is individualized to the patient
  • The Naturopathic Doctor is interested in all the details of how a patient experiences their ailment in the context of the whole person
  • I always give clear examples, both general and specific from my own practice and from my own experience.
  • I always arrive with extra material in case things move quickly. No one ever minds more information if presented in a timely fashion.
  • I cite research whenever possible.
  • I am respectful towards and about all medical professions and include comments about my referral patterns both to and from medical colleagues.
  • I always end my talk 5 minutes early, never run over and do not try to pummel more information into people just to squeeze it in! Leave ample time for Q&A; often times my best teaching is done when I am answering questions from participants.

Now that I teach so much and often in the context of the naturopathic profession, I encourage my students to get comfortable giving talks and often include practice sessions on just that. I strongly urge people of all ages, to give talks in whatever context makes sense for them, to help “naturopathic” become a household word. In the end, I became one of those people who often stands up in front of a group and gives a talk or presents a lecture. I like the “good” nervous I feel, where I get into the zone, where I let my training, my practice and my years of experience take over. I know I have prepared well, I know I know my material, I know I like people and want to connect …so after a few minutes the nervous feelings go away and I share my work, my ideas and my thoughts, hopefully to positive effect!

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