By David Woods

While the majority of speakers and panellists at the recent ISPOR meeting made professional and even compelling presentations, some of the offerings were characterised by mumbling – or rambling – delivery, and indecipherable graphics.

If you’re about to face an audience and would prefer not to be in that minority, here are some tips to help you avoid anaesthetising your listeners.

  • First of all, effective public speakers aren’t born, they’re made. They’re made by practice, complete knowledge of their subject, and the ability to put it across logically, clearly, succinctly, and with evident interest and enthusiasm. Monotonous speech – however dramatic its content – will turn listening into listlessness.
  • Speak naturally, clearly, and with the help of notes, and develop your theme logically. A strong start is important since it’s vital to show your listeners during the first minute – when you can be sure that you have their attention – that you are not another rambling bore.
  • After developing two or three major points as the core of your discussion, wrap it all up neatly with some clear conclusions: in other words, tell them what you’re going to tell them; tell them; then tell them what you’ve told them.
  • Don’t try to pack too much information into your talk; it confuses the audience and does you out of an opportunity to deal with the subject again from another angle – and to accept a further honorarium.
  • Avoid mannerisms, repetition, and catch phrases. Pruritus ani may be the theme of your talk but scratching yourself there (or anywhere else) will be as irritating and distracting to the audience as it seems to be to the afflicted speaker.
  • Misuse of words, and such horrors as “in solo practice on my own” and “per diem a day,” both heard at recent meetings, indicate lack of preparation and polish and can annoy even the least discerning.
  • Answer questions – however silly they may appear to be – with interest, and briefly. Question time isn’t an excuse for another full-fledged presentation.
  • Finally, end your speech when you have promised to. The speaker who says “and in conclusion” more than twice may find that his audience has taken him at his word and gone home.

Following these guidelines will guarantee you a live audience and, at the end of your talk, a better-informed one. Moreover, you will have done something to narrow the information gap, and will probably be asked to speak again before long.

Properly used, illustrations serve to pep up a sagging audience and to refocus attention. They should be relevant, readable, of high quality and pictorial. We’ll tell you about visual presentations in the next issue of HOC.