Karen Miller, MD, FAAP, has had projector bulbs blow up while giving presentations,
tripped over an extension cord and squirted water on herself while taking a drink
from a disposable bottle. Yet she keeps coming back for more.
“You laugh, you go on,” she said.
Dr. Miller will offer advice on how to give an effective presentation — even when
things go wrong — during a session titled “Enhance Your Public Speaking Skills: From
the Office to National Conferences (F2071).” The session will be held from 9:30-10:15
am Sunday in McCormick Place West, W176 C.
Public speaking didn’t come easy to Dr. Miller, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician
at the Center for Children with Special Needs, Floating Hospital for Children, Tufts
“When I was young, I made wallflowers look outgoing,” she said.
What turned the tide was her passion for her subject matter.
“I wanted to help primary care doctors recognize that they could make a huge difference
with more knowledge and skills about ADHD, learning differences or behavior problems,”
she said. “I spoke to parent groups, school groups, pediatricians. I got better by
doing it, by reading about speaking and asking for feedback.”
During the session, Dr. Miller will share what she has learned along the way.
For example, when planning a talk, Post-it notes are in and PowerPoint is out.
“Do not open PowerPoint and start typing,” she said.
Instead, take a walk and think about your topic, your audience and what you want them
to do differently. Then jot down key points on sticky notes, and rearrange them until
you determine how your presentation will flow. Only then should you start making your
Dr. Miller, a member of the AAP Council on Communications and Media, also will offer
tips on how to stay calm, cool and collected.
Among her recommendations is to go into the restroom before your presentation and
get into a power posture (think Superman and the Fearless Girl statue).
“If you … get into your power position, take a couple of deep breaths and say, ‘I’m
really excited about sharing this information with this group,’ you’ll go on with
an enthusiasm that will be contagious.”
Dr. Miller has myriad suggestions to head off disasters like her unfortunate experience
with a flimsy water bottle. But if things don’t go as planned, she offers reassurance
that you cannot die of embarrassment.
“You just can’t take yourself too seriously,” she said.
Finally, pediatricians need to remember that public speaking is a skill, not a talent.
“You get better by doing it, getting better bit by bit,” Dr. Miller said. “What makes
a great public speaker is their passion for their subject. Pediatricians have passion,
and their voices need to be heard.”