Bedside manner is key to connecting with audience

by Halina St James

Recently my mother, who’s 85, had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in her left lung. She’s one of the lucky ones whose cancer was discovered early, was slow growing and therefore easily removed. Plus, she had one of the best thoracic surgeons in Canada, Dr. Yaron Shargall.

What struck my husband and I about Dr. Shargall, apart from his amazing medical skills, was his ability to communicate. When he told me the outcome of the surgery, he sat down, spoke slowly and was very patient as I took notes and asked questions. At no time did I feel rushed, even though he is an exceptionally busy man. At no time did he use language that confused me.

Dr Shargall also teaches medicine. When my husband took my mother in for a follow up visit, Dr. Shargall had a student with him. He asked the student to observe closely my mother’s behaviour. ‘First impressions matter,’ he told the student.

Then Dr. Shargall started talking to my mother. He leaned forward. His tone was calm. He looked her in the eye. He made a strong personal connection.

We should all take some tips from Dr Shargall. Next time you are making a presentation, or delivering a speech, or trying to engage with any audience, summon up your best bedside manner:

  1. Look the listener (or audience) in the eye.
  2. Make sure your body language says you’re engaged and listening.
  3. Watch the body language of your audience to see if they are understanding you.
  4. Match your tone to your content.
  5. Keep your language simple.


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