Public Speaking in Health and Safety

Public Speaking

Many of us are familiar with the need to engage fellow workers, peers and trainees in selling our ideas or teaching them about health in the workplace. I remember my first PowerPoint presentation, the long sleepless night before; considering all the mistakes I might make. Or, losing the audience or being harangued by an aggressive watcher. This fear stayed with me for many years.  It is only now after developing my style and tweaking my performance that I can be comfortable about doing public speaking – but it’s taken a while!

I suppose by two biggest disasters was when the overhead projector caught fire and we had to call Fire Brigade (which turned out OK and very exciting), and secondly, when I spoke to teenagers living away from home, on the dangers of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Even to this day, I see a studded, tattooed, leather clad youth lounging in the chair and reading the newspaper the whole time I spoke. And he sat right in front of me!


Currently, most use PowerPoint presentations; they deal nicely with complex messages and help with my ailing memory and nerves. But you can rely too much on PowerPoint so here are some pointers to help you get the best from them:

  • Decide on a few simple messages to get across to your audience – what you want them to do at the end of the training?
  • Do not assume they know as much as you, start at the beginning and explain each concept step by step.
  • Do not use jargon and acronyms
  • Don’t make the mistake of collecting tons of information as you can and cramming it all into the presentation
  • Have a great ending – people rarely remember the start but judge your talk by the ending
  • Don’t look up at the projected screen as you present – maintain eye contact with your audience as much as possible and read from your laptop or note cards
  • Practice your presentation in front of a friend – ask what was good/bad, where were they bored, did they understand the concepts discussed, was it too long/short?
  • Don’t move about too much unless you need to emphasise a point


Interactive is a more advanced type of presentation style that I favour.  I tend to talk to members of the audience and set small exercises to do during a talk.  In larger audiences, I split the group into smaller groups with a project brief and in the largest types of talks, I can set up workshops with facilitators to control and organise each group.  Membership of each group is either randomly sorted or split by a common interest e.g., nurses, employers, supervisors, depending on the subject matter.

The session is timed and each group is asked to feed back to the main group.


Here are some great  interactive ways of making learning fun


For long, complicated training, stop periodically to administer brief quizzes on information presented to that point. You can also begin sessions with a pre-quiz and let participants know there will also be a follow-up quiz. Trainees will stay engaged in order to improve on their pre-quiz scores on the final quiz. Further, motivate participants by offering awards to the highest scorers or the most improved scores. Some organisations use the pre and post quiz to demonstrate learning.

Small group discussions

Break the participants down into small groups and give them case studies or work situations to discuss or solve. This is a good way for long term employees to pass on their experience to newer employees.

Case studies

Use case studies to capitalise on your audiences past experiences. Analyse real job-related situations, employees can learn how to handle similar situations. They can also see how various elements of a job with everyone working together to create problems as well as solutions.

Active summaries.

Create small groups and have them choose a leader. Ask them to summarize the lecture’s major points and have each team leader present the summaries to the class. Read aloud a pre-written summary and compare this with participants’ impressions.

A crowd at a public speaking event
Public Speaking
Q & A sessions

Informal question-and-answer sessions are most effective with small groups and for updating skills rather than teaching new skills. For example, some changes in departmental procedure might easily be handled by a short explanation by the supervisor, followed by a question-and-answer period and a discussion period.

Question cards

During the lecture, ask participants to write questions on the subject matter. Collect them and conduct a quiz/review session.


By assuming roles and acting out situations that might occur in the workplace, employees learn how to handle various situations before they face them on the job. Role-playing is an excellent training technique for many interpersonal skills, such as customer service, interviewing, and supervising. However, there could be resistance to this type of activity.

Participant control

Create a subject menu of the proposed content. Ask participants to review it and pick items they want to know more about. Call on a participant to identify his or her choice. Cover that topic and move on to the next participant.


Whenever possible, bring tools or equipment that are part of the training topic and demonstrate the steps being taught or the processes being adopted.

Other activities:
  • Create a personal action plan
  • Raise arguments to issues in the lecture
  • Paraphrase important or complex points in the lecture
  • Interactive sessions keep trainees engaged in the training, which makes them more receptive to the new information.
  • They make training more fun and enjoyable.
  • They can provide in-session feedback to trainers on how well trainees are learning.
  • Interactive sessions can take longer because activities, such as taking quizzes or breaking into small groups, are time-consuming.
  • Some methods, such as participant control, is less structured, and trainers will need to monitor the information coming in and out of the process.

Public Speaking Today

As you climb the ladder of success you will, inevitably, have to do public speaking. Maybe invited to comment on your views, ideas and experiences of your work.  Some say that public speaking is their number one fear and this fear increases the more important the audience or the message you try to convey.  You will need to practice with your body language, your style of speaking and the sound of your voice.

Watch these top 25 Ted Talks observe the experts and copy their styles. Also, take note of the content.  Watch no 2 – the Ted Talk about body language and no 8 of how to get people to listen to you.

If you put all this in place and you practise – you can’t fail to improve.

Good luck!


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