51. Five Specific Techniques for Excellent Presentations with Ross Fisher
Pediatric surgeon Ross Fisher, the mind behind p cubed presentations, breaks down how to finish a talk (teaser, it’s not a random vacation slide or you saying, “Thank you,” and walking off stage). As a bonus, he also discusses structuring a lecture with spaced repetition so your audience truly understands your message, fielding questions, staying on message, and how to (and how not to) use a script in lecture preparation.
Guest Bio: Dr. Ross Fisher is a UK based pediatric surgeon and the creator of p cubed presentations. The p cubed philosophy, based on three core principles of message, supporting media, and delivery, has fundamentally changed the delivery and quality of medical lectures.
Presentation feedback can be hard to take and hard to give. What is the best way to do it? [03:00];
Many of us give presentations, but virtually none have been taught how to do it. We have to be gentle with feedback, because everyone aspires to the level of mediocrity they see around them. Most don’t have the right mentors or role models when it comes to public speaking.
Feedback should be given in a safe place. It’s best if it’s asked for rather than unsolicited.
Immediately after a presentation, give congratulations feedback. “That was really great. I loved your message.”
Be positive rather than critical. The keyword in feedback is “why”. Be specific about what confused you or needs further explanation. “I noticed you had lots of slides with many bullet points. Why have you done that?”
We have to be careful to not destroy people with feedback. Help them to make small changes which eventually will lead to bigger changes.
What’s the best strategy for ending a talk? [08:59];
You need to signal the end in all three parts of the presentation.
The message signals the end when you deliver your punchline. This is the key message. After saying it, pause. Just stop speaking.
The supportive media should also signal the end.
Avoid cliched slides such as a sunset or a picture of a globe.
The best concluding slide is a blank one that is either white or black (white for a dark room and black if well lit).
The value of the blank slide is that there is nothing for the audience to look at apart from you. They won’t be distracted by an image on the slide.
The temptation after the pause and during the blank slide is to say “Thank you” or “That’s all I’ve got”. But don’t do it. If you stand there, it will be clear you’ve delivered your punchline and the audience will react with applause.
The delivery indicates the talk is over with the big pause and body mannerism, such as putting your hands behind your back or walking off stage.
Tactics for handling listener questions [13:15];
After concluding the presentation, invite questions. After questions are answered, summarize what was brought up by the audience and then restate your key message.
The final voice the audience needs to hear is the speaker who was asked to give the talk, not the opinion of someone in the audience.
In summary: you conclude, you do questions, and then you conclude again with the original punchline.
Scripts are helpful when structuring and rehearsing a talk. But what is the best way to use them and avoid making the delivery sound robotic? [17:33];
When we feel like a talk has been memorized, it feels forced and lacks flow. Then it’s hard to engage and we don’t remember it. The only parts Ross memorizes are the intro and conclusion.
Before he gives a lecture, Ross constructs his message, types out a script verbatim, and edits it to perfection. Then he reads the script and times it. To avoid overrunning allotted time, he limits the script to 75-80% of the allocated time.
After practicing the script 3-4 times, he puts it away and challenges himself to deliver the message without the script.
“Once we recognize that our message is not a data download but instead is about facts that are woven into our message, then we can start to relax about not remembering everything as a speaker...Then you can afford to extemporize, take time, think about things, forget perhaps, and move things in a different order. And it will still work. That’s better for the presenter and better for the audience.”
What is the best way to present data? [23:44];
Hearing the actual data is not as important as summarizing the data in your message. Relay whether a finding was statistically significant without necessarily giving the data points.
“The best place to pick through data is in your office with coffee, some time, and a notepad. It is not in a short presentation.”
Data points are forgotten almost immediately. If the data is important, give them to the audience in a handout, blog post, or a URL.
If you choose to mention the data in a talk, avoid putting them on a slide where they tend to distract from the message and create confusion.
Spaced repetition of the message helps people remember the important points. [26:36];
There is great value in signposting the message throughout the talk.
If the main message is: “Pediatric trauma management is different”, discuss in the body of the lecture how it’s about different numbers, it’s about different therapy, and it’s about making a difference. This helps the listener remember and rebuild the talk.
They won’t remember the facts, but they will remember the message.
What is meant by, “Message, not story, is the basis of a good presentation”? [28:20];
With the rise of TED-style talks, the story has taken a prominent role as a vehicle for teaching. When you connect factual learning to a story or a narrative, it’s much better retained. Story works because if we care about something, we will more likely remember it.
What’s most important in a talk is the message. But the message can include story.
Shownotes by Melissa Orman, MD
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