Confidence to speak in public does not come naturally to many people. There are a few naturals and can speak fluently and genuinely, connecting with an audience and knowing instinctively how to pitch their talk and when to stop. Most people have to learn, practice and suffer agonies to get anywhere near this level.
On the spectrum of confidence, there are some painful extremes. Most of us have seen speakers who are massively confident in their own ability and mesmeric powers. They have dozens of slides, use whizzy technology to add sound, pictures and film, they talk for too long, say too much and don't appear to care who is in the audience or what they have come for.
At the other end of the spectrum is the painfully shy and self-conscious speaker who cannot connect with the audience, addresses their words to the floor and is so clearly suffering that everyone longs for the session to end.
Yet, even for these people, it is worth making the effort to learn how to present competently. There is plenty of help available, from books, free online seminars and courses, as well as by practice, support from mentors and 'top tips' from experienced speakers. Being able to speak well, whether at a conference, workshop or simply in a meeting, is a key skill if you want to make a difference to patient care, or to develop your own career.
At the QNI, we expect all our award-winning project leaders to speak about their work in a variety of arenas, both formal and informal, and part of the workshop programme that comes with the project funding aims to help them learn to do that. Nurses have a very powerful combination of knowledge, passion and practical nous.
By talking about their work, many project leaders have been able to secure further funding, to get the initiative main-streamed across the organisation, or even to win other local or national awards. Local good work on a project is an achievement: but spreading the benefits to hundreds more patients by getting the project taken on and expanded is an even greater one.
Rosemary Cook, director, Queen's Nursing Institute