Dear Healthcare Leader,

There’s an old adage that says, just because you have a mouth doesn’t make you a speaker.

How do you take what is between your ears and communicate it to an audience? The skill is more than just learning how to control your arms and taking your hands out of your pockets. And it doesn’t require advanced academic degrees.

However, learning how to serve up your intellectual capital into palatable portions is the one area where otherwise capable people typically underachieve. It is also the one area which, when appropriately applied, has the ability to make you stand out from the crowd and be compared to your competition, i.e., your peers.
Make no mistake …

As a speaker, you will be judged more by how you present than what you know. This holds true in all speaking events, whether it’s for a group of three or 3,000.

The Unlucky Seven

The results of breaking these unwritten laws (I call them the speak limits), are worse than a monetary fine. Why? Audiences are like Thought Police, and their perceived penalty will cost you.

How? You might not be asked to speak again. Worse yet, no audience response! They will remember you as one of those boring speakers. Result? Picture your salient points not heard, your influence dampened, your brand and reputation slumped on the side of the road.

To avoid being left behind, here are seven speaking traps healthcare leaders often fall into.

1. Shotgun structure. This is the concept of spraying quick thought bullets into the audience so individuals can’t react to them. Instead of this option, build your talk on simple points that answer obvious questions. When you begin to speak, audiences think, “Why should I care?” So, chose a few key points, make them clear, explain their application, and repeat them more than once.

2. Reading your notes. The spoken word is perceived differently than the written word, so let go of the idea that every one must be specifically scripted as in a peer-reviewed article. Since the act of reading takes your eyes off the audience you miss the mark if you present any topic, including research, as written. Conversely, eye contact helps establish your authenticity and credibility. Practice speaking as if you were explaining your points to a friend.

3. Not enough stories. You want people to recall what you said, right? No matter how intelligent your group, as humans our neurolinguistic processes require that new information be presented in ways we can visualize. Graphics or photos alone do not cement ideas – stories do.
When we hear a story, we make a visual imprint of it in our minds. This links the information to the hippocampus, the memory generating part of the cerebral cortex. Research shows that audiences remember stories 90% more than information presented in a typical fact-laden lecture.

4. Telling worn out stories and jokes. If you want to engage your audience with stories and humor, make them your own. It’s okay to use someone else’s story, providing you give them credit. And, even if you think you’re funny, it’s unwise to tell a canned joke. You never know how a remark will land on an audience. The best stories, perceived as fresh, quirky, and original, will be real experiences from you or someone you know.

5. TMI on your slides. Because it is impossible to read and listen simultaneously, slides loaded with text take away from your talk. Don’t make your audience choose between you or them. They may as well read the speech from poolside while sipping a cool one!
Your audience has chosen to be present with you instead of taking their education online. Honor this choice. Better to lead an in-depth plunge during a break-out session than cram everything you know onto slides.

NEWSFLASH: It is not necessary to relate everything you ever knew on your subject! Get your nose out of the notes and talk to people.

6. Talking too fast, or in a monotone. Extra points off if you ramble on at lightning speed or mumble with no vocal variety! Listening to the spoken word takes longer for our brains to process. If you race to stuff it all in, learners feel like they are forced to drink from a fire hose of information. But what if another speaker has gone on too long and cut into your time? Better to subtract one point of wisdom and keep an understandable pace.

7. Microphone misses and other miseries. It’s bad enough that meeting rooms with the lights turned low and the projector whirring are like a lullaby … Zzzzzzzz. But speakers add to the distraction by being ignorant of the basics of microphone etiquette:

1. Use it.
2. Keep it close to your mouth.
3. If needed, tap to test if the mic is on.
4. Don’t blow into the mic.
5. Keep it away from clothing.
6. Don’t wear jewelry that clinks or jangles.
7. Don’t turn your back to the audience to look at the screen.
When you learn to avoid the speak traps and mind the speak limits, you will be several steps ahead of any of your peers.

Candy Campbell, DNP, RN, CNL, CEP, FNAP, is an international speaker, award winning actor, author, and filmmaker. Find out more at:

To contact me, begin by sending a quick email to or leave a message at 925.207.1376. My assistant or I will arrange a time for our phone meeting.

Thanks. I’m looking forward to speaking with you!

Yours for livelier communications,

Candy Campbell