This past UC Davis Pre Health Conference was my second. Returning to campus, I felt like a veteran: I already knew where to go, I could envision who my audience would be, and I even knew which restaurants I wanted to go back to.
Because I was presenting all day on Sunday, I attended sessions all day on Saturday. It was fascinating how the workshops were split right down the middle:
Some of the workshops were brilliant
Other workshops were terrible
Though I had strong opinions on why, I decided to ask the students in the audience of my own workshop “what presentation was your favorite and why?” I have codified some of their responses into the five tips below. The brilliant workshops hit all five, while the terrible workshops usually had one fatal flaw, which was enough to completely derail the workshop.
So, if you would like to learn from the collective wisdom at the Davis Health Conference and make your next presentation better, try to follow this advice:
#1 - Be personal.
Information is everywhere. Students at the conference are inundated with brochures and statistics, and they can easily find the answers to factual information online. What they can’t get, though, is your particular journey. How did you get to where you are? What advice would you give to pre-meds when you used to be in their shoes? Tell stories from the front lines of becoming a doctor. By getting personal, you will have already made your presentation unique, because you are the only one who can tell these stories.
#2 - Be organized.
40 minutes is not a lot of time for a presentation, and if you spend it searching for which email attachment to open, you’re going to frustrate your audience. You need to come in with a plan for the most important aspects of your presentation to cover and what you will do if you start to run out of time. Students are eager to get to the next workshop, and if you’re not organized, you will see many of them start to leave before your presentation is over.
#3 - Use slides as a tool, not as a crutch.
Slides can be helpful for those who are taking notes, but you don’t have to put EVERYTHING on your slides. Your presentation is more about what you say than how many bullet points you can cram onto the screen. A good rule of thumb is the 10-word rule: if you could only put 10 words on the slide, what would you say? What could be left off?
#4 - Save time for student questions.
It’s the beauty of the workshop format. Many of these workshops are recorded and put on Youtube, but students want to attend the in-person workshops to be able to interact more with the material and with you. Give them the opportunity for that. Don’t cram your presentation so full of content that you run out of time for questions (I admit that I’m guilty of this too).
#5 - Have fun.
If you’re enjoying yourself, then your audience will have more fun too. Very few people like public speaking. In fact, public speaking beats out “heights” and “bugs and snakes” as the number one fear of Americans. Having fun while overcoming your nerves might be hard. But you should still try. Doing so will bring just a little more energy and a little more life to your presentation.
Knock ‘em dead at your next presentation!