Tomorrow I’m giving a presentation titled Collagen Biosynthesis Disorders: the Biomedical Impact of Abnormal Protein Coding to a room of masters and doctorate candidate students.
I like to find common threads in things I must do (presentations) with things I love (writing/acting, basically storytelling). In doing so, practicing one becomes like practicing aspects of the other and, if I can equate something dry to something exciting, it changes my attitude, motivation and the end result (and everything is more fun).
The common thread I found that links presenting health topics to writing fiction and acting/theatre? Communication.
“Nothing’s New” Generally Applies to All Three
Fiction: plots have all been used, basic motivations have been done, characters fall into stereotypes, etc.
Drama: example, Shakespeare’s only been done a zillion times.
Science (nonfiction): It’s the same. It’s overrun with old news (polypeptides, enzymes, hydrogen bonds) that some health science students might be glad to never hear about again.
Similar to crafting fiction or being the n-th person to play Iago ever, the skill and challenge lies in presenting the old things in intriguing, unprecedented ways. In the delivery.
That’s how I look at presentations now. Like storytelling practice. Nonfiction performances. Sure, my audience is required to be there but they aren’t required to be intellectually stimulated or to remember anything after I finish (they won’t be tested on the material); that’s on me.
It all matters: the opening, design, subject concentration, word choice, flow, energy (if I’m not excited by my topic, why should anyone else be?), confidence (in body language, expression, gestures), knowledgeability/authority but as a contemporary versus as an instructor (so it’s “us together” instead of “me and them”; relatability), etc.
Have you ever listened to a speech with your full attention not because the topic was any more riveting than any other topic but because the speaker made it so? How cool would it be to able to communicate like that? In person and on the page?
The audience doesn’t owe me a thing and they won’t simply give me their genuine interest. They shouldn’t. That’s normal. I’m supposed to work for it. In the words of Tom Venables: “Audience is earned.”