Presentations are only as good as one’s passion

Last week, I gave a presentation of a case study. It was an interesting experience to work with my friends to come up with compelling arguments despite none of us having any real interest in the topic of Accountable Care Organizations. My professor asked us to then view the recording of our presentation and critique ourselves. My main conclusion:

Presentations are an outward expression of our passion (or lack of) for a specific topic.

A few weeks before, I presented on the topic of ePatients as mentioned in my previous post, and that was a great presentation because of the enthusiasm I have for the subject material. I decided I would like to share the written critique I sent to my professor, in hopes of helping all of us understand how to improve our public speaking and presentation skills.

Reflection

Reflecting on our presentation gave me an opportunity to go beyond the surface of my presentation skills, and really assess my passions and what I enjoy most. What I realized is my presentation skills and abilities are greatly improved by one single factor. Do I care about the subject material? Now, let me be clear, I did care about this case competition, but talking about ACOs was not as exciting to me as speaking about engaging patients in healthcare and patient satisfaction. As I thought about my presentation last week and compared it to our Futurescan presentation, I recognized the important factor of passion, which was significantly lacking during our case presentation.

In the case competition, I could not seem to stop saying “umm.” Why? Because I was not completely confident in the material I was sharing. I feel the issue of confidence was the reason for a number of my weaknesses coming out through that presentation. I was constantly looking back at the screen as a crutch to ensure I was talking about the right things. So much of the material we had was so vague and lacking, that it was difficult for me to be confident in regards to our subject.

This presentation was filled with information, simply lots of details because it is hard to summarize an ACO in just 20 minutes. With the ACO rule being over 600 pages, it is difficult to summarize something of this magnitude in such a short amount of time. Because of that, I rushed; you could tell I was just trying to fly through the information rather than ensure my audience was retaining and understanding the material. I felt I was just presenting material, and never really considered what the audience would be seeking to gain from the presentation. A good presenter establishes the purpose of his or her presentation at the beginning of the project, thus enabling him or her to focus on what matters most, and allows them to predict the questions the audience will ask.

Despite the vocal cues of uncertainty, I felt I was able to speak clearly and loudly in order for the audience to understand and hear what I was saying. I was able to visually connect with each individual in the room, when I was not looking back to the screen, and I was able to use my hands in a less distracting way than I have done in past presentations.

In conclusion, I realize the need, as Mr. Zucker stated, to become an expert in the subject matter, but first I need to gain a passion for the material. In the workplace, I know I will be given topics to present that will bore me, but I can find a passion for them as I understand the implications of those topics.

Strategies for Improvement

First, the one thing that bugged me the most from a technical standpoint was my looking at the screen after I made each point. I did have my presentation memorized, and need to stop looking at it. To me, I just need to have the confidence that I remember what is on each slide.

Technicalities aside, I would hope to find topics that interest me and enable me to transform that passion into a better presentation. As I mentioned, that may not always be the case, and as such, I will do more research on the topic. To me, I should have gone beyond my internet research and learned more from executives in the field, and in essence, borrowed some of their excitement for the topic. I really feel the power of presentation is based on the level of preparation on the part of the presenter. Preparation includes establishing a clear purpose at the beginning of the research and planning stages, and constantly referring back to that purpose. I will seek to write a purpose statement for each project I am involved in that I can refer to throughout a project.

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