7 tips to improve your patient presentations

7 tips to improve your patient presentations

A presentation to patients is an excellent tool to communicate your message. However, the material must be presented in an effective and powerful manner.  These tips will help you deliver dazzling presentations.

1. Know your audience. Sounds obvious, but unfortunately I have seen many presentations delivered to patient groups that were full of medical jargon and complex slides.  Think about how people speak in a grocery story. Did you ever hear a person in a grocery store say to a friend “I had an episode of syncope!”  No! They would say, “I fainted!” Be sensitive to the audience members’ medical issues. I attended a patient-oriented oncology event and one physician went into excruciating detail about cancer survival rates. Many audience members were visibly crying.  We should be honest with information, but not overwhelming.

2. Start strong. People make up their minds in a minute if they will listen to you.  Don’t start with cliché statements like, “It is a pleasure to be here.” or “Thank you for inviting me.”  Those statements are nice, but not powerful enough for an opening.  Later on, you can add those greetings. Catch their attention immediately with these strategies: content-related humor, a startling statistic or interesting story. For example, you can start with, “Did you know that every day in America …” You want people to think, “Wow. This will be a great presentation!”

3. Information tells them, stories sell them.  After sharing a fact, tell a story, such as a successful patient experience.  Stories are emotional and they capture our attention.  Facts alone fade, but stories stay with us. In essence, people recall the story and then they remember the fact. Use vivid colorful language as you incorporate the audience into your story. Create powerful images in your audiences’ minds.  For example, you can state, “Imagine you’re sitting outside on a warm spring day, the sky is blue, the birds are singing …”

4. You’re the star of the show, not the PowerPoint.  I rarely see PowerPoint used effectively.  PowerPoint is meant to supplement the program, not be the program. Avoid simply reading the slides to the audience. That action is horrifically dull; the greatest sin a speaker can commit is being boring. PowerPoint is effective when used to complement your material. When presenting information use the 6 x 6 rule: no more than six lines per slide and no more than six words per line. Use a lot of pictures and illustrations. (People always ask how I use PowerPoint. I provide a handout of all the information; I use PowerPoint slides to highlight key topics. This method takes more work, however as a presenter you do what’s best for your audience not what’s easiest for you. Try it – your presentations will come alive!)

5. What’s your point?  Think about two to four main points you want your audience to remember. Use stories, pictures and illustrations to bring your points home. Repeat the points. To help audience members recall key points, I often use the “call back” technique. I will mention a fact and then later ask the audience, “Now what percent of people experience …?”

6. Involve your audience.  You can speak to thousands of people and still have interaction.  This can be as simple as asking, “By a show of hands, how many people here have experienced …?” Try using “pair share,” in which the audience members briefly talk to a person sitting next to them.

7. End on a high note.  A powerful close is essential. This can be a great story or inspirational quote that ties into the content.  I often close with a call to action, “Now go out there and …” Your audience members should walk away feeling invigorated with new information and long-lasting memories. (Never have Q & A as your close; that segment should be the second to last item; use the strategies listed above to close in a powerful way.)

You can become an amazing speaker by incorporating these simple presentation skills.  Your audiences will love you

Edward Leigh is founder and director, Center for Healthcare Communication.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000566557918 Martha Deed

    Thanks, Edward, for a clear and concise guide. I especially appreciate the 6 x 6 rule.

    • http://www.CommunicatingWithPatients.com/ Edward Leigh, MA

      Hi Martha: So happy to read you found the article helpful. The 6 x 6 rule is so important! Overly busy slides are confusing and frustrating to audiences! Don’t forget to use lots of pictures … since pictures often say more than any words.

  • http://twitter.com/LymphomaJourney Andrew Griffith

    Good general advice for all presentations.

    • http://www.CommunicatingWithPatients.com/ Edward Leigh, MA

      Hi Andrew: Thank you for your note. I primarily speak to healthcare
      professionals. These tips work with all presentations regardless of whether you are speaking to patients or professionals. Everyone wants
      to hear an exciting program with excellent information and powerful stories!

  • http://twitter.com/pjfm54 Peter J. Macander

    Point #8 Keep it short & sweet! Excellent & Pertinent presentation!

    • http://www.CommunicatingWithPatients.com/ Edward Leigh, MA

      Hi Peter: Thank you for your note. Yes, the KISS (Keep It Short &
      Sweet) Principle is very important in presentations!

  • http://symptomsdiagnosisbook.com/ Nabin Sapkota, MD

    This is an excellent topic, one that will become more important in the future as more and more patients are wanting to be a part of their own healthcare team. Most patients have the ability to understand deep and complex medical issues if we present the information to them in a language they understand. In my opinion, one common mistake we make when presenting to patients is that we simplify the information instead of simplifying the language.
    I agree that stories make a big impact, specially when the story relates to someone in the audience. When you are a patient, any knowledge about the disease you have becomes very personal to you. When you hear a story similar to your own, you want to know everything there is to know about the condition.
    I think being able to explain complex and comprehensive medical knowledge to patients in a language they understand is one of the most important skill as a physician if you want to provide the best care for your patients.

    • http://www.CommunicatingWithPatients.com/ Edward Leigh, MA

      Hi Nabin: Thank you for your note. You mention so many important
      topics related to presenting information to patients. I always remind healthcare professionals that every time we educate patients – we are delivering a presentation. People tend to think of presentations as
      involving big groups. However, educating one patient involves excellent presentation skills.

      • http://symptomsdiagnosisbook.com/ Nabin Sapkota, MD

        Thanks Edward, I really appreciate what you do.

  • PamelaWibleMD

    Wonderful Edward! Yes! Get rid of the jargon in all patient encounters. Have not done a PowerPoint in years. How many TV show presentations or stand-up comedians use PowerPoints? I think what people need more than anything these days is less “technoglitz” and more human contact
    Thanks for the wonderful review and reminder to be human!