Scientific and technical presentations

The Happy Presenter

By on November 29, 2017

Most of us are not happy presenters. Consider the complications: the drill of assembling our ideas, putting them in order, finding that, nope, they’re out of order, rearranging them, developing slides, exhausting our eyes as we create clever little graphics, only to find that they are way too busy, or not interesting enough, or the […]

Communicating Complex Data

By on August 29, 2017

Even the best and the brightest have trouble communicating complex data. But when there is a lot of information, there are things that people can do. You can make the presentation more appealing to an audience. I knew a man–he was a scientist at Rockefeller University. He loved to walk around the office saying “Data, data […]

Power of Examples

By on August 1, 2017

The power of examples is huge, and it’s probably underestimated. Recently, I went to a private equity firm. They were asking me to help sell a portfolio company that they owned. Of course, the presentation was really slick. They had a bunch of financial terms: EBITDA, CAGR, P&L for almost every month that the company […]

Facilitating Ad Boards

By on June 5, 2017

David Luke was recognized by his colleagues at Pfizer as a great facilitator. He had a standard opening line: “I’m an equal opportunity abuser,” he’d say to the assembled physicians. “I will be calling on you at anytime on any subject during the meeting. So–heads up!” It takes a skilled and confident facilitator to use […]

You Don’t Need a Personality Transplant

By on January 11, 2017

I believe that scientific medical presentations need to be more dramatic. After all, doctors are talking about life and death. Yet many doctors speak like test pilots: flat as a mashed potato sandwich. It’s the culture of intrepidness, as if all medical professionals were Steady Eddies who stuff fear and face cold, hard facts with […]

My Kind of Champion Speaker

By on March 24, 2015

I have been looking at various presentation websites. I am impressed and not impressed, and I am concerned about the distinction between making a convincing argument to serious people with serious decisions to make, vs. giving an entertaining performance to people who need to be entertained. Because I accidentally live in New Jersey, my career has been largely […]

Put Power Point to Work for You

By on February 24, 2015

When you need to use powerpoint slides, keep it simple, and use images to help you tell a story. Often, clients ask me to help them knit together a talk with some slides. Once, I was asked to develop a presentation to introduce a major Human Resources initiative across a global company. When I arrived, […]

Science and Business: The Story of a Lost Mousse

By on April 8, 2014

Here in New Jersey, scientists grow on trees and work in laboratories, developing and testing molecules for bio-tech and pharmaceutical companies. Every day, they leave the known world to explore microscopic molecular places and witness scenes that quite possibly no human being has seen before.  They are the Lewises and Clarks of medicine. Like grizzled […]

Scientific Presentations and the Gettysburg Address

By on September 18, 2013

When working on scientific and technical presentations, I am often amazed by the wonders of the science being presented and, at the same time, shocked by the speaker’s lack of awe or appreciation for the mystery and power of his own work. It seems to me that many scientific and technical speakers take their own […]

The twilight of presentations?

By on March 1, 2012

Albert Camus famously said, “Some people talk in their sleep. Lecturers talk while other people sleep.” Okay, very funny, Albert. But given the research coming out of universities demonstrating that students generally have poor retention of information delivered by the 600 year old tradition of the lecture, Mr. Camus may have been on to something. […]

Presentation Skills: Adjust your level of detail

By on January 17, 2012

You’re preparing a presentation and the question comes up, “How much detail should I include?” The answer is, “Just enough,” and that’s not a cop out, because there are so many different circumstances, audiences, and types of presentation. For instance, when trying to convince an FDA Advisory Board that your drug is not more likely to […]

Scientific Presentations

By on May 5, 2011

Over the last few years, I have worked to help discovery scientists within the pharmaceutical and biotech industries make persuasive scientific presentations in order to sell their ideas for new drugs to decision makers. The challenges were many.  Often, scientists had to report to their bosses in Europe via video conference.  The image projected in […]

How science presentations should work, but don’t

By on February 16, 2011

In the idyllic vision of the uninitiated, a scientific presentation tells a story, starting with a clear description of a problem, then outlining a series of steps taken to address that problem, and ending with a special reward: a glistening kernel of new knowledge. The speaker tells the story using a vocabulary accessible to anyone […]

Packing a presentation for the FDA

By on February 3, 2011

We carefully packed the sculptures in our suitcases when we returned from Africa, using our dirty clothes to cushion them from damage.  Leave it to the airlines to outsmart us and find the weak spots in our preparation.  When we got home, three of the sculptures were broken. No problem.  A little SuperGlue, and now, […]

Better Investigator Meetings

By on November 17, 2010

I recently had the privilege of sitting through four investigator meetings, two in the United States and two in Europe. They comprised speaker after speaker with slide after slide.  Topics included the disease, the drug, the PK, the efficacy and safety, statistical modeling, and then the process by which patients were to be enrolled and […]

Ideas for better Investigator Meetings

By on November 17, 2010

You may be aware that I’ve been going to investigator meetings and finding them kind of out-of-date. We’ve got to get away from what’s easy for the sponsor, and instead move toward what is effective for the investigators and their associates. What is easy for the sponsor is to have the usual cast of characters […]

How to Clarify Complexity

By on November 4, 2010

To clarify this complexity, I have to step back, calm down, and ask myself a question, such as, “What seems to be the problem?” Then I have to look at the rat’s nest of black wires, and begin the delicate surgery of extricating one wire from the clutches of the other...

What’s the point you’re trying to prove?

By on November 4, 2010

Right now I’m sitting in the back of a hotel meeting room near Washington, DC, where two dozen physicians are rehearsing for a presentation to the regulatory authorities. They are debating what point they are trying to prove. The question has to do with the use of a certain methodology to measure, in clinical trials, […]

Scientific and Technical Presentations

By on April 14, 2010

Ironically enough, the biggest challenge faced by people making scientific and technical presentations is their reluctance to follow the scientifically established principles of communication. What are those rules?  One of them is that the human mind is drawn to problems, puzzles, and mysteries. Rather than seeking to capture the attention of the audience by making […]

Meditations on the perils of presenting at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference

By on January 11, 2010

The perils are listed in no particular order. Needle in a haystack The audience will be drinking data from a firehose.  The savvy presenter recognizes this peril as an opportunity. To capture attention—do something that stands out from the environment.  The opposite of getting attention is camouflage. Being attention-getting is not a quality; it is […]

When Scientists Present

By on December 1, 2009

When scientists present, they usually start with methods, then move to findings, conclusions and perhaps recommendations.  There are good reasons for this, and it can provide some drama.  Yet any communication we are willing to pay for is built in the exact opposite way. As consumers, we want the conclusions up front, and the facts […]

Persuasion and Influence: Competing for Internal Resources

By on July 1, 2009

Suppose you work for a large pharma company that historically makes its profits from blockbuster primary care products, and you work in oncology. When you present your plans to the senior people, it’s evident that they don’t understand your specialty, and what’s worse, they don’t seem to care. They grew up in the company selling […]

Scientific Presentations: Hitting the Audience in the Heart

By on June 30, 2008

Here’s the scenario. A bio-tech company will fly to Paris to convince influential French physicians to use their compound-in-development in clinical trials. The company has invited the French doctors to a nice meeting room in a nice hotel and plans to tell the doctors all about the compound. When asked, “What is the purpose of […]

Pharmaceutical Presentations: Pharma on Trial

By on February 16, 2008

Despite the extraordinary contributions the pharmaceutical industry has made to the quality and longevity of human life, it stands charged in the court of public opinion on a multiple-count indictment. Below, I have listed what I believe are the sentiments, concerns, and judgments of the average well-informed person who is concerned about the state of […]

Technical and Scientific Presentations: Engineering Better Talks

By on April 13, 2007

People make fun of engineers–ribbing them for their introversion and poor communication skills.  I don’t feel that way.  Whenever I work with them on their technical and scientific presentations, I find them to be eager and open to new ideas.  When I give them a process to follow, they try to make it work, and […]

Public Speaking: A Stunning Moment of Authenticity

By on April 6, 2007

Last week I went to the third and last day of a meeting for engineers.  After lunch, one of their senior leaders stood up and summarized every presentation they had experienced during the past three days.  As he began to speak about each presentation, he put up a new slide, and each slide was a beautiful […]

Scientific Presentations

By on April 4, 2007

I recently bought a book called The Craft of Scientific Presentations by Michael Alley, which begins with a quote from Isaac Asimov. On March 21, 1949, I attended a lecture given by Linus Pauling… That talk was the best talk by anyone on any subject that I had ever heard…  The talk was more than […]

Persuasive Speaking: Medical Liaisons Tweaking Content

By on February 5, 2007

When Medical Liaisons in big pharma are launching a drug with a major study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, you’d think their job would be easy.  But it’s not. One way it’s difficult is in the variety of audiences they have to educate. They have to speak to senior executives in their […]

Presentation Skills for Scientists

By on November 26, 2006

I went to a slew of parties over the holidays.  When people asked me what I do,  I found myself saying, “Consultant,” or “Speech consultant,” or if I’m feeling really insecure, “Itinerant rhetorician.”  I am essentially dodging the phrase “presentation skills” because I’m paranoid that people will think of me as the guy who tells you […]

Business Presentations: Scientists as Speakers

By on June 1, 2006

I just spent a few days with several scientists from the pharmaceutical industry.  Their company wanted them to be more persuasive when presenting their research to business decision makers. To prepare for the assignment, I conducted a series of interviews to determine what they thought they needed, and what the decision makers thought they needed.  The two groups had very different […]

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