It’s new resident week. One of the talks given was about making great presentations by my brilliant colleague Rob woods … Read on to learn from his wisdom.
Why do you need to give a good talk?
We’ve all gone to conference talks that make you want to sleep, only you can’t because you also feel like poking your eyes out…and you can’t just get up and leave because the ushers made you sit in the middle of the row and the rows are so close together you’d be “excuse-me”-bumming your way out for like 5 minutes!!
Why would you inflict that one someone else??? It seems obvious, but generally you’re trying to teach someone to go out and do things right and avoid falling into traps. For you to “make it stick” you need to communicate effectively.
Why talks fail?
We don’t know how to teach effectively – no one ever taught us this.
We do not know how to use presentation software effectively. Additionally, Powerpoint sets you up to fail because it all about text. I prefer Prezi [read more].
“A picture is worth a thousand words”
Even when we know a bit about effective presentations we often try to do too much with our talks [when we have limited time]
… hopefully these few pearls will help you to do it right.
1. Request the Deets
When are you giving the talk? This will allow you to “reverse plan” your deadlines [lit search, creating presentation, editing and rehearsing etc]. Here’s my earlier blog on effective time management [click here]. Anticipate spending about 20 hours designing your talk.
Who is the Audience? How many people will attend? What is level of training of participants? Are there multiple specialties/levels? Will there be any ‘hawks’ in attendance?
Knowing these ‘vital signs’ will allow you to decide about the content and the depth of information and allow you to anticipate questions from the keen-eyed hawks.
What is the goal of the presentation? Who asked you to give the talk? Do they have a list of objectives to be covered? If not, think what you would want to know if you were to attend your own talk? If there are people of different professional backgrounds, poll them to find out what they need to know.
Okay … you’ve got your timeline, vitals and objectives – ready to boot up your Powerpoint? NO!
2. Restrain yourself
Giving a good talk entails way more than just regurgitating content in a confident fashion. One of the biggest faux-pas is to get an article from Uptodate and use the old “cutn’paste techinique”. If you do this you’re already violating the “dual channel rule” [read below]. More importantly … the content needs to be brokered. You do this using Restrained Preparation
Generally you’ll only get a 1-hour time-slot… this means that you’ll need to limit your content. Being concise means that you’ll need to pick 3-5 things/controversies/ practical questions.
Create your handout. It is important to develop your content BEFORE you open up power point or any presentation software. You need to know WHAT you are going to say, before you figure out HOW you plan to best convey that information.
Contrary to what most of us have experienced a handout is NOT a copy of your power point slides or a photocopied article.
A good handout is an organized outline of the content – the “Coles Notes” if you will. The handout should be made PRIOR to making your slides.
Do your Homework: Good fodder for Emergency Medicine content can be obtained via Pubmed, Academic EM, the Evidence Based EM book. Here’s a link to my fav EM Links . If you’re still stuck … talk to colleagues and consultants about the common pitfalls, any controversies or any new developments around the topic. Vet these ideas with the person that asked you to give the talk.
Okay … you’ve requested the details and practised restrained preparation. Now it’s time to create the presentation and prepare the delivery. A couple of important influences went into creating the pearls below [and need to be acknowledged]:
Firstly: If you’re not listening to Rob Rogers – you should. Here’s a link to his FREE podcasts on Medical Education [click here]. Scroll down for two great talks Episodes II and III on how to give a great talk (featuring Mel Hurbert, Amal Mattu, Joe Lex and Greg Henry).
Secondly: Kessler et.al. Recently published a neat article “Qualitative Analysis of Effective Lecture Strategies” – you know … one of those articles that you wish you wrote? dang it!
Thirdly: Manuel Mah – one of the Master Teachers at the University of Calgary once gave a presentation on Becoming an Insanely Great Presenter. Download it here.
3. Ready the Slides!
“Your presentation should be simple, memorable, visually attractive and interactive. The slides are not the talk. If someone were to listen to your talk without seeing your slides, it should still be easily understood. The slides merely highlight your speaking R.W.”
Ever heard of the Dual channel theory of information processing? … Essentially – You have Eyes and You have Ears – when it comes to attending a talk … you can’t listen to speaker AND read text on the slides at the same time. LESS WORDS MORE PICS
If you want your audience to read, shut up. If you want your audience to listen to you, put up a memorable picture and talk. R.W.
Visual Aids aren’t just gimmicks. They engage the audience. They allow the learner to compartmentalize the content. They allow the learner to focus on what you’re saying. The result is that they reinforce the concepts and allow for more effective learning.
Most of us are not Flash or Adobe experts, but there’s this INTERNET thingy that has loads of FREE Content. Use videos to show the “happy wheezer” child with bronchiolitis. Type in “Creative Commons” for non-copyrighted material. If something IS copyrighted – ask to use it – most people are okay with educational use.
If unclear – there is a generally accepted rule that 1) as long as you’re not profiting from the use 2) as long as the source is acknowledged – you are ‘fair dealing‘ in your use of media from the ‘net. [read more] (Thanks Andy Neil)
When laying down the content. Adhere to the Law of Repeated Exposure:
“Tell’em what you are going to tell’em. Tell’em. Then tell’em what you told’em.” [anon?]
Okay … you’ve got the talk ready. How do you deliver?
4. Rock it!
Malcom Gladwell in his Book Outliers – says that future success takes 10,000 hours. You probably don’t have 10, 000 hours to practise your talk [if you do – get a life] BUT … the more you practise the better you get.
‘Amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they don’t get it wrong’ [anon?]
It is not enough to practice in your head. You need to speak out loud, preferably to another person. Pick a brutally honest family member – teaching something to a non-medical person will ensure that you can explain it to anyone.
Be your own tech support – Show up early and work out any projector/audio issues well before the start of the talk. Some MAC STUFF WON’T WORK ON A PC! [big surprise] … do a test-run.
If you’re using your own laptop … Bring your own laptop adapter.
It often helps to have every file (pic video, article) in a folder for that presentation. Drag the entire folder from your USB to the desktop. This ensures all files will actually appear in your presentation software.
Make sure there’s appropriate lighting. “Mood lighting” will anesthetize your audience.
Dress better than your audience – at least 10% better than your audience (or 80% better for exclusively Emergency Physicians).
No apologies! – The audience expects you to be the expert … making excuses 1) shows weakness 2) sets the expectation of a weak presentation.
Use non-verbal communication to be more engaging. Face the audience, get away from the podium (stand on the audiences’ left side of the screen – people read from left to right, so if you stand on their right it makes them feel uncomfortable), make eye contact and speak to the audience like they are one person.
Ditch the Frickin’ Laserbeam! Using that little shaky red laser is also a sign of weakness. Lose it!
SPEAK UP … SILENTLY! Speak in a voice slightly louder than your usual voice and use hand gestures and facial expression to emphasize what you are saying. Don’t be afraid of silence. If you ask a question and people balk … stand in front of them make eye contact and wait – they’ll speak up!
It’s a natural tendency to insert “um” and “er” into you speech … this reduces the effectiveness of your talk. Silence is better. Pause often. Sip water.
Always have the Last Word – FACT: Some people who ask questions just want to hear their own voice. FACT – if this is the last thing people hear, it reduces the effectiveness of your talk [and violates the Law of Repeated Exposure]. Don’t let this guy have the last word – Questions should be asked and answered BEFORE you present your summary slide.
5. Reflect and Revise:
No-one becomes a good speaker overnight. It actually takes trial and error.
Read your evaluations. These are good fodder for change. Reflect on the comments and how the talk went. “Oh I wish I had more slides on …”.
Anytime you come across new stuff that should go into your talk … keep this new stuff in the folder for your talk.
Offer to give the same “canned talk” again at a future date. If you have reflected and made some changes, the 2.0 version of you/your talk will be infinitely better than the 1.0 version.
Okay got it? Any Questions? … NO?
Take that ATLS talk and RobWoodsify it!