Friday, February 19, 2010

Six Presentation Lessons from Grey’s Anatomy

Last night I watched Grey’s Anatomy instead of the Canadian Olympic Men’s Hockey team play Switzerland (love for my wife won out). In the episode, three doctors present cases from their past in order to teach other doctors key lessons (you can watch the episode, titled The Time Warp, online). I think as presenters we can learn some good lessons from how these doctors did their presentations.

First up was Dr. Torres. She is a nervous wreck and in trying to start her slides, she inadvertently shows a personal picture instead of a picture of the patient. Lesson #1 is to not send your laptop image to the projector until you have the correct image ready. Her slides are awful. She has a multi-colored background, every bullet point is in a different color, including dark text on a dark background, and the slides were disconnected from what she was stumbling through. Lesson #2 is to design slides that are easy to see and connect with what you are saying. She is fumbling so badly, that a colleague starts to engage her in a conversation to help walk her through the case. This calms her down and she finally sits on the edge of the stage and just tells the story. At one point, she is asked to show the X-ray that will illustrate the point she is making, so she shows that visual because it adds to the story. Lesson #3 is to aim for a conversation with the audience and use visuals only when they enhance the story.

Next up is Dr. Bailey. She is more comfortable presenting and starts by engaging the audience and interacting with them. She asks questions and throws chocolates to the one who answers correctly. Lesson #4 is to plan how you will interact with the audience. She uses slides, but they are mostly bullet lists and she didn’t really need them because her style of interacting with the audience works so well. Lesson #5 is that you shouldn’t feel compelled to use slides just because you can.

Finally we have the former chief of the hospital, Dr. Webber. He was requested at the last minute to participate, so he had no time to prepare any visuals. He just stands and tells his story. He is engaging, holds the audience’s attention and makes them feel what he was feeling at the time. He needs no visuals and is very inspiring. At the end, he is the only one who gets a standing ovation. Lesson #6 is that sometimes the best approach, especially when you are trying to inspire the audience, is to use no visuals at all.

All three doctors were telling the story of a past patient case. And all three took very different approaches. Keep these lessons in mind when you prepare and deliver your next presentation.


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