Doing presentations for community groups is one of the most effective ways to market your practice. As you talk about your subject matter, you are giving the audience a sample of your expertise.
If they find your talk helpful, and if they feel that you are competent and approachable, they may contact you in the future for help with their problems; or they may refer a friend or family member. See this blog post for more information on getting referrals through community presentations.
Not getting referrals from your community presentations?
Perhaps you might be making one or more of the following mistakes:
Audiences from the general community are typically not interested in theory, background data or complex statistical graphs. In school we were taught to document everything and to show the evidence. Lay audiences are more interested in how your topic applies to their own lives.
Therefore, use background data and statistics only as necessary, to boost your main points. For the rest, speak in everyday language that your grandmother (assuming she's not a mental health professional) would understand.
One Powerpoint slide after another full of bullet points conveys a lot of information. But such information comes across as very dry and academic. Unless your voice and body language add emotional appeal, people will start checking their watches and waiting for you to get done.
If you do use slides, pack them full of images. (Sources for free images here.) Use bullet points sparingly. The audience should be focused on you, not on the screen.
Too much content
Remember George A. Miller's famous 1956 paper, "The Magical Number 7, Plus or Minus 2"? Subsequent research has shown that for more complex information our memory capacity is closer to 4 chunks than 7.
That should be enough reason to limit the scope of your talk. If you try to cram in too much information, people are apt to start tuning out.
Therefore, for a 30-minute talk plan to cover no more than 3-4 major points. If people leave with wanting to know more, all the better!
Also, if you find yourself with 5 minutes left and 18 more slides to go, don't rush through the rest. Instead, pick out one or two slides to end on. I know it's tempting to want to give your audience everything you prepared. (I've made that mistake, too.) But if people leave with information that they can use, they probably won't miss what you didn't talk about.
Reading your presentation
Reading your presentation disrupts your communication with the audience. It also makes you appear less confident about your expertise.
Therefore, prepare well for your presentation. Rehearse it, speaking out loud. Take note of areas that you stumble on, and work on them. The more prepared you are, the more polished and confident you'll be at the actual event.
Talking at the audience in a lecturing tone with no pauses is not very enjoyable for college students, and it's even less appealing to audiences at your community presentations.
Instead, engage your audience by telling stories that help them relax and make them smile, and by inviting them to participate via questions or comments. Don't feel that every moment must be filled with your voice. Pause periodically to allow the audience to digest the information.
Getting derailed by questions
When audience members ask questions, it's a sign that they're interested in what you have to say. But sometimes the questions are complex, or are followed by additional questions and comments that can veer off the main topic. If you follow that path, you might end up in a conversation with one person, while everyone else is bored or restless.
Therefore, give brief answers to questions and tactfully move on. If the questioner persists, say that you'll be available after your presentation is over.