Physician Community Presentations: Topic Selection and Delivery Tips

November 8, 2013

Here are eight considerations for physicians when choosing presentation topics and delivering presentations.

Community outreach is an integral part of a successful practice. It provides an opportunity to build positive awareness of the practice to prospective patients who may not learn about the practice through other means.

An important component of a practice's community outreach is for physicians to speak on - and share their expertise about - healthcare-related topics of interest to their patient base. Not only can this exercise further cement a physician's reputation as a healthcare expert in the eyes of prospective patients, it can also help develop the personal physician-patient relationship patients desire.

Considering most physicians will only have the availability to participate in a handful of these presentations each year, it is critical to maximize the time spent on these efforts.

Here are eight considerations for choosing presentation topics and delivering strong presentations.

1. Choose the right topic at the right time. While physicians speaking to their community will often bring in a crowd, choosing a timely topic will bring in a larger crowd. Physicians should determine what issues matter most to their community, and where their guidance and insight can make the most difference.

To help identify timely topics, physicians can speak with staff, patients, and members of their community who interact with large numbers of people such as school teachers and local news reporters who cover healthcare issues.

2. Don't be a substitute for Google. If a physician is considering a presentation topic that people can learn about through a quick Internet keyword search, then that topic is likely not the right choice.

If people want to "learn" about a topic, they can watch a video on YouTube. A flesh-and-blood presentation should successfully build rapport and audience affinity for a physician, and that's accomplished by not only masterful delivery, but also picking topics that lend themselves to inclusions of stories, personalization, and good question and answer opportunities.

3. Be wary of low-hanging fruit. Physicians should be cautious about picking topics that lend themselves to easy presentations, such as flu season in the winter, or allergies in the spring. These are topics that today's savvy consumers are researching independently - and then likely discussing with their current physician.

Consider including these issues in a presentation rather than making them the focal point. For example, a presentation on winter wellness can include a discussion of flu as well as other winter health issues.

4. Remember: Broader is often better. Community members generally want to come to presentations that are relevant in a number of ways, and narrowing content too drastically tends to defeat these purposes. For example, we've seen much better attendance at talks marketed as, "steps to healthy living: exercise, nutrition, and wellness," rather than obesity or even weight management.

Going broader provides an opportunity for the physician to discuss more topics of interest to the community, therefore encouraging greater interest and interaction.

5. Avoid polarizing topics. Since one of objective of these presentations is to attract new patients, it's critical for physicians to avoid topics that may polarize an audience or alienate sections of the audience.

While a controversial topic may attract large numbers of attendees, providing a presentation on the topic that makes the entire audience think positively of the physician and his or her views will be difficult.

6. Remember: Presentations are different from lectures. To deliver the most effective presentation, physicians need to get away from viewing these speaking opportunities as lectures. They should, instead, consider them interactive opportunities to develop rapport with the community.

As such, it is worthwhile to build rhetorical devices strategically into the presentation format. For example, it is more effective to throw an idea out to the audience and ask questions around this thought rather than simply getting to the end of a talk and asking the audience for questions about the entire presentation. Physicians will find a drastic upswing in the number of questions asked - and the connections made.

7. Allocate time post-presentation. Make sure time is set aside to interact with the crowd following the talk. This will give attendees an opportunity to pose questions they were not comfortable asking in front of a crowd.

These interactions, when handled properly, will help physicians establish even more personal connections and may help "seal the deal" for those attendees considering the physician as their caregiver.

8. Follow good practices. Remember to incorporate critical best practices of community outreach delivery when giving the presentation. These include avoiding overreliance on slides, incorporating personal stories and anecdotes, injecting humor where appropriate, and rehearsing delivery before the presentation.

When combined with the right topic, these best practices will help physicians deliver a presentation that accomplishes all of the objectives of the outreach effort.