(Editor’s Note: This post will be followed by an Honors post on the FemInEM winners at the ACEP16 New Speakers Forum)
Public speaking is an integral part of every academic emergency physician’s career. Doing it well is key to career advancement and public recognition of your expertise. There are indeed tomes of literature and innumerable courses available to teach you how to master this skill. I have read the books and attended the seminars yet, as a woman in Emergency Medicine, there were still many lessons that I had to learned the hard way. Technical issues specific to female speakers are just not addressed.
I have no intention of sharing with you best practices for how to choose your topic, make your slides or practice what you are going to say. Emergency Physicians are eminently practical people and, as such, I will share with you 10 absolutely practical tips for female public speakers.
- Lavalier microphones and necklaces don’t mix. When using a lavalier mic be sure to tuck your necklace inside your top or simply remove it all together. When you move, the necklace and lavalier microphone will make contact sending unpleasant, amplified noises to assault the ears of your audience.
- Headsets and dangling earrings don’t mix. Same principle as above. Stud earrings are fine but anything in your ears that will move when you do risks creating extraneous noises that are amplified to the room and distract from your message.
- Wear an outer top layer than can support a clip on microphone. Collars do not support microphones very well. Even with their light weight, lavalier microphones on a collar can pull on, or even undo, buttons. They can also just make your top feel unbalanced and uncomfortable.
- Loose tops create a lot of background noise when you move. This noise will be amplified by a lavalier, hand held, or even a podium microphone. Certain materials are worse offenders than others. Test your top by rubbing it between your fingers in a quiet room. If the noise level seems high, trade it out for a more structured shirt which will move less and make less noise.
- Long hair worn forward can interfere with a lavalier microphone and amplify extraneous noises. Simply keeping long locks behind your shoulders, and away from the microphone, is an easy fix. If this is not an option, wear your hair up.
- When using a lavalier microphone, attach it to yourself on the side closest to the projection screen. Neckties hold the microphone in the midline, lapels do not. If you turn to reference a slide, you still want your voice to be picked up by the microphone. Attaching the microphone away from the direction that you turn will cause your voice to be out of range of the microphone and your message will be lost to the audience.
- Battery packs have to go somewhere. Make sure suit jackets have a low front pocket large enough to fit a standard 2×3 inch battery pack. If wearing a dress, make sure there is a structured belt that can support the pack. Typically these packs weigh less than half a pound but that can be enough to pull down a loose belt or untie a waist sash.
- High heels look great but are difficult to stand in for an hour. Comfortable shoes are a must and should be tested before your presentation. Walking in heels is very different from standing relatively still in them for a prolonged period.
- When on a platform, survey the area for any gaps where narrow heels can get stuck. Yes, this has happened to me. There is nothing more awkward then being tethered to one spot by a stuck shoe.
- If not wearing a suit jacket, bring a sweater. Short sleeves may look great but often leave you chilled while on stage in a cold conference room. No matter how confident you are, if you are shivering, you will appear nervous.
Special thanks to the female emergency medicine faculty at the University of Maryland for offering their collective wisdom on this topic. Together we have given well over 1,000 presentations and have all learned a few tricks along the way.