5 ways public health professionals can improve their communication skills | Oct 10, 2016

As a public health professional, being able to communicate effectively to the public is critical. Use these five tips to increase your ability to educate and inform the people with whom you work:

1. Consider your target audience.
In public health, being able to engage with your audience is critical. If you cannot capture the attention of the people whom you are working with, it will be hard to ensure that they really hear your message. That is why it is so important to think about who you are speaking with before you begin preparing. If you are talking about the dangers of smoking, for example, you would not use the same words and tone with children that you would with adults.

2. Communicate the “why.”
In public health, you may often find that you have to communicate a lot of very detailed information, whether it is specific preventive measures for avoiding the flu or the amount of protein in certain foods. However, it is important to make sure that you do not lose the “why” of the topic – why the audience should care. If you are talking about the importance of exercise and include so many details about different activity options and ramble on about different health effects, you risk having people walk away and missing the big idea among all the information. When in doubt, err on the side of brevity.

3. Limit your notes.
Preparation is important when you speak in front of a group, so you likely will have notes that you bring to the event. However, if you have too much written down, you may fall into the trap of just reading off of your paper, which will make it difficult to engage your audience. Forbes additionally recommended taking notes for yourself directly after you speak so you remember what worked well and what did not for next time.

4. Educate yourself.
To educate others, you need to first educate yourself. If you want to take your career to the next level, consider enrolling in an online Master of Public Health program to deepen your knowledge of particular areas of the field, such as epidemiology or health promotion. An MPH program will also give you opportunities to develop your public speaking and presentation skills, valuable tools for communicating with the public.

5. Practice, practice, practice.
As in most things in life, there is no substitute for practice. To really improve your communication skills, you need to gain experience in speaking with others. Try running through your presentation with a trusted friend or colleague beforehand and ask for feedback.