A frequent comment I hear from physicians runs something like this,
“John, they didn’t teach us presentations skills in
medical school. Thanks, this workshop really filled a gap.”
While most doctors and other medical professionals are not taught
presentations skills, many find they frequently present to groups.
Whether the presentation is during grand rounds, during a panel
discussion or giving a talk at a medical conference, physicians
and other professionals in the medical field are expected to deliver
highly complex and technical information in an engaging and understandable
If a talk is given on behalf of a pharmaceutical or medical device
company, PhRMA and AdvaMed add another level of complexity to the
talk. Not only must the presenter deliver information effectively,
he or she must be sure to comply with important guidelines.
Another common thing I hear from clients is, “I doubt our
doctors will be very open to learning.” There seems to be
a perception that doctors are not open to constructive feedback.
Often people think a certain specialty – surgeons, psychiatrists,
anesthesiologists, etc. will be too difficult to work with. I’ve
worked with many different specialties and found each group to be
very open to new ideas and eager to learn.
Here are a few key things that I’ve found important in working
with medical professionals:
- Use data wisely. I often see PowerPoint presentations overloaded
with data and with no synthesis and conclusion provided by the
presenter. Learning how to select and highlight relevant data
is critical to a crisp and effective medical presentation. I’ve
helped medical presenters trim an 8 minute presentation from 55
to 15 slides (still a lot, but hey, it’s progress).
- Bring your passion forward. Medicine is about improving the
quality of life for patients. The best presentations have a balance
of technical data and personal stories about patients. Good storytelling
is an essential part of bringing a medical topic to life.
- Don’t be intimidated by your audience. While a feeling
of intimidation can be a problem for any audience, I find the
feeling very prevalent in medicine. Doctors, especially new presenters,
carry great fear that the audience will be hostile and attack
their presentations. Many doctors tell me this is due to lingering
trauma from medical school. One psychiatrist had some out of control
nerves regarding the audience and told me, “John, I have
some serious cognitive work to do before I present.” Stated
only as a doctor could, and very true.
- Pay attention to guidelines but don’t be paralyzed. PhRMA
and AdvaMed guidelines are important to understand and follow,
but there is no need for them to be overwhelming. A simple understanding
of the guidelines eases many fears and helps presenters relax.
I’ll end with a key thing that I think makes for excellent
presentation coaching and workshops: treat doctors like people.
I continue to be shocked how many people think doctors’ egos
are too big to allow learning and feedback or that physicians are
too busy to tolerate presentation skills training. All the talk
of potential resistance made me a bit nervous the first couple of
times I worked with doctors, but my fears quickly subsided.
I find doctors to be much like other participants in that they
have the same doubts and anxieties around presenting and the same
desire to improve. This desire for improvement, coupled with the
high standards physicians place on themselves, and their ability
to quickly learn makes doctors a group that can benefit greatly
from presentation skills workshops and coaching. Just because these
skills weren’t taught in medical school, it’s never
too late to fill the gap.
Partial Client List
American Electric Power
American Red Cross
Big Brothers Big Sisters
Ball State University
Boys and Girls Clubs
Eli Lilly and Company
Habitat for Humanity
Lincoln National Life
Louisville Gas & Electric
Old Kent Bank
Reynolds & Reynolds
Tri State University
Vera Bradley Designs