MAKING A PRESENTATION
GUSTAVO STRINGEL, MD
At a recent international meeting, I had 12 minutes allotted for my presentation. Early, on the morning of the presentation I followed my ritual. I inspected the podium, connected my laptop to the projector and the main computer, and found that everything was working perfectly. I had worked extremely hard on this presentation and had incorporated outstanding audiovisual material. I was ready to start and waiting for my first Power Point slide when to my dismay, nothing happened. The computer failed. Within a few seconds, three audiovisual engineers tried to correct the problem. The moment I realized that this was not going to be accomplished in a timely fashion, I started my presentation without audiovisuals. Luckily I had followed some of my own advice and had practiced my presentation until it was nearly memorized. I delivered it in 10–12 minutes as scheduled and people congratulated me after the meeting because of my creativity in the face of adversity.
It is difficult to imagine a modern presentation without audiovisual aids. Computer assisted presentations have become very sophisticated, including video clips, interactive sessions, and teleconferencing. During informal presentations, the speaker can exercise his or her own discretion about topic length, the style of the presentation and the extent of interaction with the audience. As a general rule, the speaker is in command because he or she is an expert in the field and the audience, aware of this, is more receptive. The speaker can use a variety of audiovisual aids and has time to deal with potential technical problems with the audiovisual equipment.
For other more formal presentations such those at national and international conferences, strict rules may need to be followed. The topic is preselected and well defined, and the speaker has a specific amount of time allotted to deliver the talk. National and international meetings, congresses, and symposiums are attended by people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds which makes the audiovisual material even more important. Effective use of audiovisual aids requires that your entire presentation be well prepared and rehearsed. Know the scheduling details: exact time allotted, starting and ending times, and whether there is a question and answer period.
All associations now demand that presentations be computerized using Power Point. One way to transfer 35 mm slides to a digital format is to scan your slides using a slide scanner; but the scanners are expensive, and the quality of the product is sometimes disappointing. I prefer to photograph the projected slide using a digital camera; use a good quality screen and a tripod.
Find out how you are going to be positioned with respect to the projection screen and audience and whether you will have the freedom to walk around the podium with a portable or wireless microphone.
Bring your own laptop AND a copy of the presentation on CD-ROM or DVD.
Test the podium, microphone, laser pointer and other necessary equipment the day or morning before the presentation. Communicate with the audiovisual technician to ensure that your computer or video is compatible with the provided equipment.
Find a position in front of the audience that allows you to check the projection screen during your presentation.
Do not hesitate to ask for help. At large meetings an audiovisual technician is usually readily available. If there is no technician available, some of the audience members could be of assistance and may volunteer to help you.
Audiovisual aids can make an enormous difference in the delivery of your message. My advice, however, is that you be prepared for computer problems to leave you without your audiovisual aids. Memorize your main topics. Memorize and practice your opening and closing. Have a written copy of your main topics or a printout of your slides handy. Prepare one or two vignettes or personal stories to make the audience feel more comfortable and connected to you.
Overall, don’t panic, and be creative. The audience wants to listen to your message.
Colin R. Accelerated Learning. New York, NY: Dell Publishing. Bantam Doubleday Publishing Group Inc; 1985.
Stringel G. Making a Presentation. Laparoscopy and SLS Report. 2003;2(2):25-27.
Address reprint requests to: Gustavo Stringel, MD, 21 Addison St, Larchmont, NY 10538-2744, USA, Tel:
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Gustavo Stringel, MD, is Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics at New York Medical College. Dr. Stringel has published and often presents on laparoscopy and thoracoscopy in children. He serves on the editorial board of JSLS and sits on the SLS Board of Trustees.
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