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Dealing with mixed audiences in presentations

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I'm John Clare and I've been coaching people all over the world to make scientific presentations from more than 20 years.

I said in The 7 Deadly Sins of Scientific Presentations (and how to avoid them)  that analysing or identifying the audience is the first step in planning a presentation.  In particular, you need to think about their levels of:

  • Interest
  • Knowledge
  • Expertise

So what if you do that, and realise they’re a mixed bunch? They may include nurses, General Practitioners and specialists.  Appealing to everyone is difficult, but possible. You just need to be prepared

First, you need to be clear about WHO you want to get the most out of your talk. That may be the biggest group, or the most expert, or the ones who see most patients, or even the ones with the funding. All are important, and only you can decide which is most important.

Here are my tips for dealing with a mixed audience.

Start broad, get narrow, end broad.

Starting broad enables the less-informed audience members to join at a level which they can understand.  Getting narrow starts to add something for the experts.

So you might start by saying, ‘The way we treat Type 2 diabetes has really changed in the last few years. Much of that is due to the new drugs we have. If you qualified more than 10 years ago, your main treatment options were metformin, the SUs and of course insulin.  Now we have those but a whole host of other classes of drug as well. The main new ones are DPP4 inhibitors, GLP agonists, and SGLT2 inhibitors. They all have their uses, and of course they all work differently. The focus of my talk today is the last of those, the SGLT2 inhibitors…’

Acknowledge that some know more than others.

Use the magic phrase, ‘As I know some of you are aware’.  This flatters the people who do know, and allows the others to catch up quickly. You may prefer variants such as, ‘I know I don’t have to explain this to most people here, but I want to make sure we’re all on the same page at the start….’

Be honest and ask the experts to be patient.

Many of the experts in your audiences are also regular presenters, so they understand your dilemma. If you’re going to give a basic overview at the start, tell them. They’ll respect you for it.

Give a clear menu at the start

This way everyone knows which parts will apply to them, and where they can expect the new information. It shows the experts that it’s not all going to be basic, and enthuses the others who will enjoy trying to stay with it as the information becomes more challenging.

Structure your talk so the points build on each other

Don’t jump around your topic. Go from A to B to C etc. This makes it easier to follow.

Move quickly through the basics

The experts will bear with you for a short time, but get to the new and interesting material quickly.

Use appropriate language

This applies to every presentation, as I made clear in The 7 Deadly Sins of Scientific Presentations (and how to avoid them). With a mixed audience it is even more important, as the sudden use of a different term when you have called it something else can confuse people. When you are about to use a term which is new and important, use an introductory phrase such as, ‘We call this XYZ’ or ‘This is known as ABC’. This makes it clear that this is new to them, and they don’t have to worry that they’ve missed something.

 


There is much more on this and similar topics in my book Communicating Clearly about Science and Medicine:

http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409440383

Over the last 20 years I have helped to prepare thousands of scientists, physicians and pharmaceutical executives for major presentations, media interviews and regulatory hearings.

Find out more here: http://www.lionsdencommunications.com

If you have a particular question or a topic you would like me to address, please email me: John.clare@lionsdencommunications.com

If you have colleagues who would benefit from these tips, please send them the link to my free e-book, The 7 Deadly Sins of Scientific Presentations (and how to avoid them).



http://www.lionsdencommunications.com/download-free-book

Thanks for dropping in.

If you have colleagues who would benefit from these tips, please send them the link to my free e-book, The 7 Deadly Sins of Scientific Presentations (and how to avoid them).



http://www.lionsdencommunications.com/download-free-book