Death by “Pubmed-induced Powerpointitis”. And how to prevent it.

Sooner or later you will find yourself in a position to prepare a presentation about a clinical topic. You can either kill your audience’s curiosity or you can excite them, it’s up to you. Here is my approach to how to excite your audience:


But first let’s look and the most common approach, you don’t wanna follow:

Do a Pubmed search, pick the 6 best articles, copy and paste the graphs thinking:

“Great this going good, got already 9 slides. Just fill in the headlines and bam-I’m done. Hmm… these six graphs in one slide don’t really fit the screen. Oh well, I’ll just apologise and blame the journal for low quality graphs. Don’t blame me it’s in Pubmed! The more information, the better, right?” To make sure nobody can blame me for false information I only have to do two last things:

1. Criticise the studies for mistakes: wrong patients included, no blinding or the classic: patient number too low.

2. and finally: Bohoo about the lack of data in general. That is how every great presentation ends today…done!

But if you only give  the audience the blank, unedited information you found in Pubmed… what’s the point of attending your presentations? Could have done that myself faster, easier, cheaper at home plus I get to wear pyjamas!

So now: This his is how we do it!

Fist, you’ve got to understand: They want to hear about you. They don’t want to hear about 20 clinical trials, 16 original papers and 14 reviews in a row. They came to hear you. They read the title of the presentation of a clinical topic and thought: “Great! Finally a topic, my patients will profit from.”

So before you start a presentation we have to picture the audience. Who is sitting there and why do they want to spend their time listening to you? Are they rookies or experts? How much information do they already have?

Next, imagine, you would take your audience on going on rounds with you. Imagine you would ask them to put on their white coats and go to the ER and you do a live teaching session. Here is what they wanna know:

How do you deal with this in your clinic?

What treatment plan do you put your patients on?

How do you implement the data in your clinical actions in a way that actually serves the patient?

  1. Present a typical patient, only relevant information, a couple of pictures maybe. That ensures everybody in the audience is with you. They connect with you, they think: “hat’s Mr Smith, I saw him last week in my clinic! Alright, tell me what to do with him!”
  2. Treatment options.  The audience is eager to hear your solution to this problem, they are listening, don’t mess this up now! Don’t take away the tension just yet. Give them treatment options A/B/C, so everybody can make up their mind what they would do. Argue the pros and cons  and deliver some relevant data, which was thorougly investigated but without loosing track and tension, be sure to come back to Mr Smith again. That is why we are here!
  3. Give them your treatment plan and present the data from your pubmed search. Of course data is very important and it should be the basis of our clinical actions. We just should’t use it to narcotize and bore the audience with it. In a presentation the data should be used to undermine and underline your clinical actions and recommendations.
  4. Your tricks, dos and don’ts with your clinical experience. OK the tension is gone, now you gotta give them the bonus material, otherwise they will fall asleep. Tell them what you’ve tried what didn’t work. Here,  an anecdote would fit in perfectly.
  5. Remember we don’t have it all figured out. Encourage the audience to engage in a discussion and ask whether somebody has different experiences she would like to share.

Remember, data is great, it’s important and should be the foundation of our daily work. I’m no fan of gut-feeling medicine. But there is a difference in presenting raw data and giving somebody a guideline how to treat patients.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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