Today’s presenters have to compete with smart phones, tablets and laptops. What can we do to grab and keep our audience’s attention?
My son Rhett came home from college for Thanksgiving this year and told me how appalled he is at how addicted his friends are to their smart phones. As I sheepishly slid mine to the side, I asked him to tell me more. “Everyone has their noses buried in their phones at all times. There is nothing more important than the human connection, and we’ve lost it.”
Today I want to talk about the power of stories. Humans don’t connect to data, to research findings, or to charts. We connect to stories. Stories help us relate, they make us feel, they provide our memories with context for new ideas.
In crafting your presentation, think about the central problem you are solving, the “point of pain”. Was there a patient you couldn’t help? Or a procedure that failed? What did you do? How did you feel? Tell the intimate version of the story that includes your fears and frustrations.
Next comes the story associated with the discovery of the solution. Was it your own research? Did a company include you in a trial? Or are you pointing the way for future improvements? Can you tell an analogous story that captures the trial and error? Perhaps you can share some funny detours along the way. This is where data is important, giving the audience assurances that this solution is safe and effective.
Finally, tell about the moment you realized that this was a solution to your problem, that “aha” moment. Project your enthusiasm and hold the torch high. This story can be about the original patient or new ones, so long as you can speak to their improved quality of life.
Slide decks should be used as a visual reinforcement, not as the main star. Case images can tell the story of the original problem as well as the eventual solution.
But what if you are teaching about something more abstract, such as disease prevalence or the application of insurance coverage? The process is the same. Think about the point of pain. Disease prevalence is studied to either raise awareness or increase efforts to improve treatment. Can you draw an analogy to a well-known shift in treatment in your field? Describe how things were handled before and after this shift and remind the audience how it is today. Use an image associated with that story. Then move to your quest to understand today’s prevalence numbers (maybe a needle
in a haystack?), and finish with a strong call to action. Paint a visual and verbal picture of how things could be different if things were to change, if research funding were available, if primary care
physicians performed a simple test…
Let’s work together to transform your presentations. If you are willing to spend a little time telling me your stories, I can reduce those text heavy slides and add supplemental imagery for you. My goal is to help you find that human connection again, to communicate in such a powerful way that your audience is compelled to put down their smart phones and engage in your stories.