I want to participate in a legislative day, but I’m a terrible public speaker. Help!
Dear Shaky Speaker,
You are not alone! This is a common concern for people, even the most experienced advocates. Here are tips to help you with public speaking during legislative days:
- Do your homework: Research the issues and your legislator in advance of the legislative day. Preparation will help with nerves and it may lead to a connection with your legislator or their staff (e.g. mutual interests or experiences).
- Develop and practice your elevator speech: How would you describe bleeding disorders to a friend? Why are you here today? What is one thing you want people to know about bleeding disorders? Use these questions as a framework for your speech. Keep it brief; meetings can be as short as an elevator ride or passing in the hallway. Practice in front of a mirror or with a friend. The more you practice out loud, the more comfortable you’ll be during the meeting.
- Talk about yourself: You are the expert because it’s your story! Who better to tell it than you? Your legislator will be anxious to hear what you have to say.
- Form habits: Confidence with public speaking often comes with practice. However, forming habits in your approach is a great way to calm nerves. For example, begin with a standard ice breaker about a common experience like sharing where you are from. For many people, their hometown is a place of comfort and something they enjoy talking about. Use this connection to ease into your elevator speech. Or, hold something inconspicuous in your hand like a pen to shift tension. Find a trick or habit that makes you feel comfortable—and is professional!
Participating in a legislative meeting is a great accomplishment, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Apply these skills anytime you’re talking about bleeding disorders. Informal conversation with neighbors, friends, or strangers, is often the best opportunity to polish your elevator speech. For additional guidance, consider joining your local Toastmasters club, an international organization that helps with public speaking and leadership development.
Have a question? Email us. Your name will be changed in the response.
HFA frequently receives questions from the bleeding disorders community related to advocacy issues. The questions often impact the entire community. In an effort to reach the largest audience possible with our responses to these widely applicable questions, HFA developed “Dear Addy.” Questions submitted to this column are edited in order to protect privacy and should be considered educational only, not individual guidance.