This chapter will help you prepare stimulating and effective presentations. This is an essential skill in getting your ideas across to your audience at a conference, job interview, the hospital board, or colleagues, students and patients. Candidate presentations in particular are now an established feature of selection and assessment for many roles within medicine.
In the first part of this chapter we draw on the rhetorical model of public speaking, used by great orators. We examine the process of developing arguments (invention), how to organise arguments for best effect (arrangement), how to present arguments (style), use of the voice and body (delivery) and the use of memory. In the second part we consider the science of persuasion: the use of visual aids, common pitfalls. In the third part we explore two approaches to improving performance and managing performance-related anxiety. In so doing, we expect to improve the reader's understanding, enjoyment and application of these skills in delivering memorable presentations.
The rhetorical model
Rhetoric, the art of speech-making, has been studied for thousands of years. Aristotle wrote a treatise on the subject. This model of communication has been applied to medical discourse (Haber & Lingard, 2001). Aristotle's ‘five canons of rhetoric’ (Box 28.1) serve as a guide to creating and delivering compelling speeches (Cline, 2006: p. 29).
Box 28.1 Aristotle's five canons of rhetoric
1 Invention: the process of developing arguments
2 Arrangement: organising the arguments for best effect
3 Style: determining how to present the arguments cogently and artistically
4 Delivery: the gestures, pronunciation, tone and pace used when presenting persuasive arguments
5 Memory: the process of learning and memorising the speech and persuasive Messages
In the preparation phase of any planned message, consider answering three key questions first:
• Why am I communicating?
• How should I do so?
• What do I communicate?
• Why: to inform a conference, to inform colleagues, to get the job?
• How: simple language, technical language, written, spoken, visual?
• What: structure and content – background, problem/hypothesis, analysis, conclusions, recommendations.
Then draft an outline of your content. You may wish to use a spider diagram (Fig. 28.1) to map out your ideas.