Intended for healthcare professionals

Practice And Research

How not to give a presentation

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7276.1570 (Published 23 December 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:1570
  1. Richard Smith, editor
  1. BMJ, London WC1H 9RJ

The invitation arrives. You are invited to speak on the same programme as the Pope, Bill Clinton, and Madonna. Beside yourself with excitement, you forget that you've had these sort of invitations before—and that, for some strange reason, none of the famous people ever turn up. They are all replaced by people you've never heard of and who turn out to be even more boring than you. Having accepted the invitation, you get your own back by forgetting it completely. Two years later, 15 minutes before you are due to start speaking in Florence, you receive a telephone call in your office in London asking where you are.


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“I'm sorry,” you answer lamely, “I forgot.”

“Don't worry,” answers the cheery voice at the end, “We'll just ask Madonna to speak for 20 minutes longer. The audience of world leaders will be disappointed you're not here, but extra Madonna will be some compensation.”

Far from ruining this presentation, you may have improved the world leaders' conference. But forgetting altogether that you agreed to speak is a good way to make a mess of your presentation. A variant is to arrive late. Don't arrive too late because they will simply have cancelled your session, probably sending a thrill of pleasure through an audience facing the prospect of five consecutive speakers.

Preparing for a bad presentation

One way to prepare for a bad presentation is not to prepare at all. Step up to the platform, open your mouth, and …

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