Folks, let's be honest....the "traditional" medical lecture is a failure when it comes to education. That's a bold statement, but face it....when was the last time you walked away from a lecture and retained 100%, 75%, or even 50% of the points that the presenter was trying to convey? I'd even go out on a limb and say that you probably only remember one or two points from a lecture you recently attended. Could that really be true? Take the next few moments to think back to the last medical lecture you attended and try to remember what you learned.....was I right?
There are so many reasons why speakers fail to educate using the traditional lecture model. Lectures are bland, there is too much text and images on a single slide, the fonts are too small, images are small and pixelated, and on, and on. One of the most basic flaws in the traditional medical lecture is that it is filled with too much information and the presenter cognitively overloads the learner. That's why we teach the K.I.S.S. principal at the Keynotable Workshop, Keep It Simple & Short.
Lectures are too complex...Learn to simplify
Go back to that last lecture I asked you to think about above. Was that speaker guilty of just hurling fact after fact at you for 60 minutes straight? Traditional lecturers often try to cover way too much material in a short amount of time. This is not only quite boring to the audience, but it is not how adults learn effectively. Furthermore, respected educators often claim that learners can only retain 2-3 facts or concepts per lecture. So the bottom line is that a lecture on "Pulmonary Embolism" that goes through the traditional outline of definition, epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, treatment, and disposition will never teach audiences anything about pulmonary embolism. On the other hand, that type of lecture will always succeed in losing the audiences' focus and attention. So it seems like the traditional lecture is fraught with so many problems and we should ditch it, right? Absolutely not! We should recognize these problems and as presenters change how we deliver information.
One of the best solutions is to simplify the topics that we present to our learners. Let me give you an example, instead of giving a talk on pulmonary embolism, try picking a focus within that larger topic and make that your talk...for example, I might chose to present the topic "treatment approaches for the patient with a sub-massive PE", or "hemodynamic management of the patient with a massive pulmonary embolism" or "outpatient management of PE, are we there yet?". By simplifying your topic, you keep the audience focused and this will allow you to educate, inspire and motivate your audience. I'll have a post up soon on how to take a very complex topic and easily break it down into smaller talks that will have a huge impact factor for your audience.
Lectures are too long...Make them Short!
Ever wonder why TED talks are so short? Is it because the speakers have very little to talk about? Quite the contrary, TED speakers could talk for hours on their respective subjects because they are leaders in their field. You might be surprised to hear that TED talks are concise for one reason...the audience. The truth is that it is difficult for audiences to focus on anything for prolonged periods of time. This is true of TED audiences, medical audiences, and even parents telling their children bedtime stories (please trust me on that one). A passive or, non-engaged listener can only focus on a speaker for a small period of time before their focus of attention shifts to something else. This is why the "traditional" lecture, filled with tons of information fails to inspire and educate...the audience simply cannot keep their attention on the speaker. We previously discussed how to use storytelling to hold our audience's attention (see post here), so let's discuss another technique to improve the impact of your talk...keeping things short.
The average person is only able to focus for a certain amount of time before their attention shifts to something else (email, twitter, cat videos on YouTube, etc.)...but exactly how long is it before you completely lose the audience's attention? It's not 60 minutes, it's not 30 minutes, it is not even 15 minutes...the average person can only focus on one thing for 8-10 minutes. I'll say that again, you only have 8-10 minutes with your audience before they start to shift their focus and pay attention to something else. According to John Medina, a Neuroscientist who wrote Brain Rules, the human brain is not capable of holding attention during a lecture for prolonged periods of time. Medina says to use the "10-minute rule" and keep important information you are delivering to under 10 minutes. This technique will keep your audience focused, engaged and interested.
But most lectures are not 10-minutes long, so how do you use the 10-minute rule to lecture when you've been given a 30-minute time slot to speak? Simply "chunk" your talk. In other words, take a 30-minute talk and break it up into 3 smaller, 8-10 minute min talks. After each one of your 8-10 minute chunks, give your audience a chance to process everything by giving them a little mental cleanse; summarize your point, tell a funny story to set up the next chunk, stop and ask if there are questions, but just don't just go into the next topic without allowing your audience to "cleanse their mental palette". Breaking your talks up into these 8-10 minute chunks will keep your audience focused and keep to their cognitive load. Follow this rule and audiences will see you as a polished presenter and an amazing educator.
Does this new paradigm work?
Someone once asked me, "with this new lecture paradigm, won't the audience get upset that they didn't get a full 60-minute review on a particular topic? Won't they be upset that they didn't get fact after fact hurled at them in rapid fire?" The answer is simply, no. Audiences won't be upset because if you use these techniques, they will get something that they rarely from an educational talk, a clear and concise discussion on a topic where they leave the room educated and inspired. They will walk away with concepts that they can easily remember and apply the next time they care for patients.
So start incorporating the K.I.S.S. rule into your lecture design. Remember to Keep It Simple & Short; narrow your lecture focus and deliver your main points within 8-10 minutes. Give the K.I.S.S. rule a try when you give your next lecture and you will see a drastic difference in the feedback that you receive from your audience.
Do you have other techniques for delivering a better talk? Share them below and we'll be sure to repost them.
...and do you want to learn more about presenting more effectively? Then come to the Keynotable workshop in Montreal on May 22, 2019. We'll be talking about these techniques and more. Check out the website for more information.