presentation skillsA Bruce Willis tough-guy character might say this—it’s one of those edgy little quips that circulates via the Internet:

“I’m only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand.”

This cheeky advice plays OK as a just-for-fun Twitter message. But it’s obviously a joke. In the real world of healthcare communications and doctor marketing skills, this punch line is upside down. In fact, understanding is the goal in many public speaking situations for doctors such as:

  • One-to-one physician-patient conversations,
  • Staff or colleague training,
  • Community health presentations,
  • Civic club luncheons, or even
  • Addressing a few hundred colleagues at an international medical conference.

Although I’m a Bruce Willis fan, Ralph Elliott is one of the top authorities in making effective presentations. (Sorry, Bruce.) Dr. Elliott is a marketing expert, Vice Provost and Professor of Economics Emeritus at Clemson, and the founder and executive director of the Effective Seminar Marketing Institute.

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking at a Clemson University Internet marketing conference in Chicago where Ralph was the chairperson. With his permission, we’ve adapted one of his presentations—about how to make an effective presentation—for this skill-building article.

12 Tips for Effective Presentations

With full credit to Ralph Elliott, here are a dozen useful ideas to make any doctor marketing presentation more effective.

1. Get into the subject as quickly, boldly, dramatically, challengingly and excitingly as possible. Start off with a bang, and deliver something that sets their minds immediately thinking of the many ways in which they are going to apply what you are about to tell them.

2. Tell them why your presentation is important to them, (within the first two minutes.) This creates a heightened level of interest and awareness (i.e., I’m going to give you eight specific techniques for….) It’s “what’s in it for them.”

3. Be specific. Be concrete. Use numbers. Use examples. Make these understandable and tangible. Issue any disclaimers up front. Let them know what you are not going to do, and tell them what liberties you are going to take with numbers and references.

4. Use a rapid fire pace. Don’t belabor, linger or dwell. See how many helpful ideas you can give them in the time you are allotted.

5. Stick to the time schedule as precisely as possible. Dry run your material at least twice, including once the day before the program.

6. Be relevant to your audience. Chose examples or information that connects with this specific group, and tell them why you have selected them. If you use a list (of techniques, advantages, etc.), begin by saying “I will be giving you 18 quick ideas of how to….” Then count them as you present each one so the audience knows where you are in the list.

7. Look for audience participation and questions throughout. Encourage questions and involvement early. (But keep your answers brief.) An involved audience is engaged and closer to you. Both the speaker and audience will be more comfortable.

8. No commercials please. Your best commercial is to deliver a relevant, timely session. (Your name, title and other particulars are in the program.) Stick with the topic that the audience came to hear.

9. Do not underestimate your audience. They are often skewed toward the high end of sophistication.

10. Support the program and other speakers. Be positive about the event in general…the exhibits, social events, quality of attendees, etc.

11. Develop a relevant handout. Some events require it, and attendees always appreciate a well-considered support piece. It will augment your session and be a reminder of your effectiveness long after the meeting.

12. And of course, the ultimate advice…have fun, be bold, love your audience and they’ll love you. Pour out your heart and soul in every technique or secret you know for helping this audience. In the long run, they end up helping you.

Applying these tips will draw your audience into your material and help them understand how the benefits of your presentation are useful to them. A presentation is only successful and effective when you can be responsible for a clear understanding.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

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Stewart Gandolf

Stewart Gandolf

Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at Healthcare Success Strategies
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is CEO of Healthcare Success, a medical marketing and health care advertising agency. He is also a frequent writer and speaker. Most importantly, he is happily married and a "rock-n-roll daddy" to two wonderful girls.
Stewart Gandolf
Stewart Gandolf


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