I have been requested by a group of young doctors, who are into public health to help them communicate better in the health education sector,
Both my areas of work that is dentistry and theatre fortunately are hands on subjects. So there is no dictate the notes happening.
What I realized is that people tend to get intimidated by the boogie of technical talk. And most of us who technically trained are also insecure about coming out of that space. The way I tackled it was I treat the audience as one single patient, in my clinic space where I am in control and I make my presentation. This automatically simplifies the language and makes it less intimidating.
Sharing technical input with an audience that is not exposed to that technology or is partially exposed is quite a challenge. This audience would include students, inter-disciplinary practioners, migrants to the area, and some of course natives. When I say migrants I am talking about maybe someone from speech and hearing taking attending a session on theatre arts to learn the pedagogy of speech and voice. Or someone from theatre arts attending a session on vocal hygiene.
What’s most important is to find the connect, everyone is usually there for a purpose, so we define the purpose. What works for me is, I announce the topic of the day, and give my audience 2 minutes to pull together and share what they know of the topic. This breaks ice and also gives me a hands on assessment of my audience.
Working on building a communication bridge between the audience and the facilitator brings about great learning, that would mean allowing for question and answers during the session, I can entertain the question depending on time available and relevance of the question.
Then would come to structuring my session. This is very very important, again given my thinking pattern which is cross wired I realized I go haywire so I tend to use visual aids to keep me stream lined. Visual aids are double edged swords they can take the attention off the speaker.
What came as breakthrough for me, was the realization that as a student I would use the class transcripts and relate it to the visual then the subject did not scare me, I decided to use the same transition here. The structure of the session would then be,
- Grab the attention, by getting them to assess their own level and understanding of the topic.
- Jargons had to avoided, yet jargons brought a certain amount of bonding. So what I did do was I would introduce the jargon through the session, so somewhere the immigrants would settle into the technical space.
- An understanding can be built by probably using words that the audience are familiar with, but this is a space I do not go into simply because it can boomrang. What I do is probably ask for inputs in between from the audience volunteers or give them a Hobson’s choice. Of course allowing for questions as the session is on is another great way to keep the connect.
- The acceptance of the audience comes with them accepting your credibility, and that has to be a third person presentation, so I have learnt over the years to give an honest crisp about me to the person who introduces me, if that is not possible then I share experiences that connect to the topic.
- Good illustrations and graphics go a long way in people remembering your presentation.
- Simulating action is another very important thing to do. Depending on the topic that I am sharing I create a worksheet, and have just a minute and half to two minute activity.
Teaching, or sharing technical knowledge is a challenge. Visual aids go a great way to facilitate this. over years I have figured that certain things ensure a good presentation.
- Use of precise and apt visuals.
- The visual has to be prominent and visual to the last person in the hall with clarity so pixeled images don’t work.
- The images have to be simple and well labelled. The ideal format is the same the one used for scientific drawing.
- The illustration should be colourful, but not overwhelming with colours.
- Each visual should be allowed adequate visual time, it should be long enough to register but short enough so that it is not boring.
- The visuals should transit smoothly along with the narration.
- The visual should not compete with narration.
Ideally one should check the functionality of the PowerPoint, pen drive etc. but I also make it a habit to take a back up flipchart. Actually if the audience is very small and around the study table then flipchart is more effective. It can be large enough to mount on a easel.
It is a great idea to get illustrations done professionally (http://themedicalillustrationcompany.com/ is a good source) and use animation along with narration.
I have to thank Toastmasters International as it helped me structure myself.