By putting a little time and effort into your presentation skills, you can become more persuasive and effective in your day-to-day job—and even advance your career and reputation.
For hospitalists, with their often-heavy committee load and frequent formal or informal teaching conversations, addressing groups is part of the job.
“At the end of the day, hospitalists are advocates—whether for quality improvement or patient-care issues,” says Jeffrey Wiese, MD, FACP, associate professor of medicine at Tulane University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, associate chairman of medicine, director of the Tulane Internal Medicine Residency Program, and associate director of student programs, internal medicine. “And most of their advocacy efforts [are] going to be person-to-person, verbal discussions, where their passion and conviction can come through.”
Even if you’re never asked to present at a national meeting, you are likely to address a lot of committees, teams, and task forces in your career.
“It’s important to realize that people’s time is valuable in committee meetings,” stresses Dr. Wiese. “You have to be able to speak clearly, concisely, and to the point to make your case effectively.”
Learn by Listening
If you haven’t had much experience addressing groups or you feel your presentation skills are lacking, there are simple steps to become comfortable—even accomplished—at speaking.
“Most effective speakers are partly born but mostly made,” says Robert Wachter, MD, co-founder of SHM, frequent keynote speaker and professor and associate chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
Becoming an effective speaker may require formal training, perhaps from a course or a book. But one step every aspiring speaker can easily take is to listen to other speakers—a lot of them.
While working on his own presentation skills, Dr. Wachter says: “I learned to be a shameless mimic and thief. Even now, when I hear a good lecture, I always ask myself what that person did really well, and can I do that, too. And when I hear a crummy speaker, I wonder what I would tell them to them improve.”
Dr. Wiese does the same thing. “My strategy is to learn from every talk I sit in on,” he says. “Watch how the speaker is performing—not just at medical meetings, but also on TV. In this election year there are a lot of opportunities to listen to speeches. Note good speakers’ cadence, pitch and tone, and borrow from them.”