If you have ever presented scientific content to a live audience, you know being both informative and engaging can be a challenge. In the scientific community, a busy schedule is not uncommon so it is crucial your presentation is compelling and comprehensible enough to make your audience forget their preoccupations and then return home with your key messages in mind.

At Six Degrees Medical, we have developed a few best practices to help you simplify your story and to ensure your audience understands even the most complex science.

1. Start big, finish big

Begin your talk by captivating the audience at a high level and then working your way down to the details. For example, start with the question or problem you are trying to solve. Or if you are a strong verbal communicator, open with an image or anecdote to set the scene. Then get to the detailed data and the main messages of your presentation. At the end, always bring it back to where you started by reinforcing the overall purpose of your talk. You want to ensure you reiterate your key messages but also remind the audience why they are there in the first place.

2. Stick to your target

When you are asked to deliver a presentation, it is likely you know the content better than your audience. A tried and true method is to practice your presentation with family members, colleagues or friends who are unfamiliar with the topic (or science)! Confirm they understand your key messages by asking them to summarize what you presented. As you delve into scientific data, it is easy to get too detailed so remember to stay on topic and ensure your audience is staying with you.

3. Science doesn’t always mean graphs

When you think of science, you likely think numbers, bar charts, scatterplots etc. Although these are essential when presenting data, compelling visuals can help focus your audience on what’s most important. For example, if your key message is 58% of subjects responded to treatment, consider highlighting this point with an infographic, as opposed to including the statistic amongst a standard bar graph. Visual emphasis can enhance understanding and retention but also help distill out your main message from the context you provide.

4. Less is always more

This best practice applies not only to verbal communication but also to slide formatting if you are using slides to support your presentation. If you’re a natural orator, use short, bulleted points on slides and then speak to the bullets to further explain your point. For example, adding a brief anecdote or a relatable example is a good way to engage your audience when using this technique. If you prefer having more visual or textual support, try increasing the number of slides as opposed to increasing the amount of text on slide. A good rule of thumb to follow is each slide should have no more than three key takeaways for your audience. If there are no key takeaways from the slide, the slide should not be presented.

5. Didactic is not the only tactic

Didactic presentations have their place, but one of the best ways to improve information retention is to get the audience involved. Something as simple as asking the audience about their own, related experiences can help them internalize what you have presented. If time permits, short table discussions are also an option to get the audience thinking about your key points. If you are presenting at a larger meeting, the opportunity to use technology to poll or test the audience may be a possibility and can be a great way to gauge whether your audience is following along.

6. Be yourself with someone else’s message

Lastly, always stay true to yourself and your own personality when giving a presentation. If you are presenting someone else’s work (which is not uncommon), take the time to understand, internalize and personalize the messages that need to be conveyed. Personalization can include slide formatting but it can also involve the manner and order in which the information is presented. The bottom line is to ensure you are confident in your delivery while remaining true to the presentation’s original intent. If you are not comfortable when presenting, your audience won’t be either which makes it hard for them to focus on your main messages.

As experts in developing scientific content for live meetings, elearning and more, we know how to keep audiences engaged and make complex science clear and compelling. Need help simplifying your scientific story?

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