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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Devasting expansion move lost £46k and I'm powerless

Improving your presentational skills

is crucial if you want

to get your message across to staff,

patients or PCOs ­

Dr Mike Ingram and

Ken Spooner offer advice

General practice now exists in a whole new environment. Suddenly we are immersed in the managerial hierarchy of the NHS with the need to develop new models of care, to bid for enhanced services, to study practiced-based commissioning and to look at intermediate care services.

In the November 8 issue Pulse published a piece on how GPs could write a convincing business plan. Equally important in the present climate is for GPs and practice managers to master the art of the presentation.

Presentations need to be given in a number of different circumstances: when bidding for services, when presenting ideas to the PCO, when teaching and lecturing, at practice meetings, at staff meetings and when introducing changes and new policies.

The fact that presentations are essential to communicate ideas and policy means they should be delivered in the most effective way. In order to do this it is worth considering the following golden rules for an effective presentation.

Which medium to use

The first thing is to decide what medium you are comfortable with. If you are a whiz with Power Point and find it easy to use, then this would be an excellent skeleton for the messages you wish to convey. But remember that the technology is there to help get your message across. There is a risk of making things too hi-tech, which may end up not only distracting your audience from the key messages but also distracting you from the simple message you wish to convey. If you are more comfortable with overheads, white board or flip charts, then use those.

Be seen and heard

If you are using a projector and microphone, these are aids to ensure the audiovisual impact is enhanced. So make sure you can actually be seen and heard. Make sure the microphone is working and that your voice is clear. Crackly static and feedback will destroy your presentation, as will interminable fiddling to get it all working properly. Check in advance that you can be heard easily and make sure the projection is such that everyone in the room can see.

Get there early and test it out

An essential: check the room and make sure you are comfortable and confident and that you have created the best environment for the presentation.

Outline the format

Set out the content and timing of the presentation so your audience know what to expect, the ground you will cover and the structure and timing of the presentation.

Plan your style to retain control

How will you deal with the presentation? Work out how the subject is best handled in terms of style and handling of questions. Will you take questions as you go or will you wait until the end?

Explain your approach. If there is a lot of financial or medical data or complex points, then taking questions as these arise will help to clarify understanding before you progress and will help develop ideas. But you might have to limit the number of questions.

Alternately, if the presentation is very ideas based, you may wish to leave questions until the end so a full debate can get going.

Provide hard copy

It is essential that those listening to the presentation have hard copy to take away with them. However, providing this in advance can take away some of the impact and can lead to loss of attention as the audience reads ahead rather than concentrates on the talk. But where there is difficult, controversial or complex data then hard copy in advance can give people time to study the issue in advance of the session.

Tailor your style and tone

Though humour and levity can lighten a meeting, it has to be appropriate. Practise the tone of voice and make sure you are not delivering your topic in a soporific flat monotone or in a distractingly hesitant style.

Try to emulate the attributes of presentations you have been to that interested you or kept you focused and engrossed, and incorporate them into your own style. Use provocation if the material merits a lively debate, or a conciliatory approach if you are trying to gain support.

Do not distract your audience

Practise in front of colleagues, spouse or partner to get rid of irritating and potentially distracting verbal or visual tics. Do not fiddle with pens gadgets or, worst of all, jangle coins in your pocket! Similarly try to eliminate cliché and repetition.

Establish control

Look as if you are in the driving seat and start with such things as asking people to turn off their mobiles. Look keen, eager and as if you are really looking forward to giving the presentation even if in fact you are nervous. Once control is established then you will be able to carry your audience.

Rehearse the presentation

By rehearsing the presentation you can focus on the points you wish to bring out and make a note of them. This then allows you to revise your slides and make sure your timing and material is designed to cover all your points.

Time how long you take and try to have certain check points within your presentation for timing purposes. Present to colleagues and friends and check how effective you have been in getting the key points across. Take note of the feedback you get and amend your content or style accordingly.

Some people have a natural relaxed style, coherent intellectual approach and engaging persona that make their presentations powerful and effective. For those not so blessed, such attributes can be developed by diligence.

Thorough preparation, rehearsal, focus on key points and, with the help of friends or family, developing a relaxed and engaging style can help you achieve the outcomes you desire.

Presentations need

to be given when

·Bidding for services

·Presenting ideas to the PCO

·Teaching and lecturing

·Running practice or staff meetings

·Introducing changes and new policies

Mike Ingram is a GP and Ken Spooner is the practice manager at the Red House Surgery, Radlett

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