Stop and think back to a presentation you still, to this day, remember vividly. What was it about that lecture that imprinted itself on your memory? Was it the speaker’s energy, oration, or style? Was it the slides that were simple and elegant yet powerful in their message? Or was it, perhaps, the way in which the speaker was able to dynamically involve you in the presentation as a member of the audience?
Chances are, it’s not one but a blend of several of these factors that captivated your attention. Learning the skills to deliver effective presentations takes patience and practice.
Fortunately, the recipe for successful presentations is not a secret limited to an elite group. On the contrary, all you have to do is remember to execute a few guidelines that will help sharpen your presentation abilities.
Although most physicians—both in training and practice—deliver lectures on a variety of topics, few receive guidance on presentation skills, style, and content. The following are the “Ten Commandments” of presentation planning and execution. We suggest hospitalists learn, practice, and implement these rules in order to deliver better presentations.
Commandment No. 1:
It’s All About Preparation
Never wait until the last minute to prepare. Take the time to completely research your topic and define your objectives. When you give your talk, you should feel like a content expert. Budget additional time to rehearse: in front of a mirror, with your partner, even for a small group of colleagues. This routine will give you the opportunity to time yourself, obtain feedback, and become comfortable with your material.
Commandment No. 2:
On presentation day, be among the first to arrive. It allows you to appreciate the venue, test the audio/visual equipment, and make any last-minute adjustments to your presentation. Build in time to troubleshoot (e.g., Is the microphone too loud? Is your animation syncing properly?). You might even be able to practice one last time.
Commandment No. 3:
Don’t Curb Your Enthusiasm
One of your top priorities as a speaker should be connecting with your audience. Bashfulness is not an option. People attending your talk are interested in you and your subject matter. Use humorous anecdotes or real-world examples to inject passion into your presentation; they breathe life into what might be a well-organized but boring hour.
Share your enthusiasm about your topic by discussing relevant personal experience, or draw upon on previous feedback (“The last time I gave this talk, I had a nice lady ask me …”).
Commandment No. 4:
Speak Crisply and Clearly
Anxiety causes a presenter to speak faster than they normally do. Pace your speech and focus on pronouncing the last letter of every word. This helps you to enunciate the crucial points of your talk and avoid mumbling.
Learn to avoid fillers (“um, uh, hmm, err”) by practicing what you want to say, exactly how you would say it.
Crisp, clear speech is impressive and can help win over your audience. Need an example? Just watch President Obama.