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The 10 commandments of oral presentations

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 01 October 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:0510374
  1. V Raveenthiran, General secretary1
  1. 1Academy of Medical Sciences, Annamalai University, India

Have you ever fallen asleep during a lecture, or felt the presentation you were attending was a waste of your time? V Raveenthiran tells you how to get that oral presentation right

Giving an oral presentation at scientific meetings is an indispensable skill for medics.1 Medical students as well as doctors frequently need to read papers at conferences, and this physician-physician communication is essential for dissemination of knowledge and the advancement of science. It is surprising therefore that only a few members of the medical community are familiar with this art,25 and the techniques and principles124 of scientific verbal communication are not taught at medical schools or in medical textbooks; medical students are therefore left to learn oral presentation by trial and error rather than through formal teaching.

Oral presentations are helped by a variety of audiovisual equipment, such as conventional 35 mm slides,6 computer aided multimedia,7 PowerPoint presentations,810 and overhead projectors.11 The general principles described are applicable to oral presentations incorporating any form of audiovisual aid.

Know thy audience

Unfortunately, many speakers fail to understand that the audience represents a group of people who differ in their level of knowledge, ability to comprehend, and degree of interest in a given topic. Irrespective of their level of knowledge, however, the audience spends its precious time listening to a speaker in order to learn something new, and so a good speaker should first identify who the audience is and what it wants to learn. The presentation should then be tailored to the needs of the audience.

the audience is more likely to …

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