How to Present an Outstanding Dental Lecture
Gary Greenstein, DDS, MS
Delivering an excellent presentation is a communication art form that can be learned and practiced. Dentists are often called upon to verbally convey information in a lecture format to professional groups or the public. In this regard, there are four types of public speaking: ceremonial, demonstrative, persuasive, and informative.1 Ceremonial speaking is when one gives a speech on a special occasion. A demonstrative talk directs individuals on how to do something, while, in contrast, persuasive lectures entail convincing others of some point of view. Informative addresses involve transferring data and information from one person to a group. While most dental talks are informative, they can fall in any one or combinations of these categories.
Memorable presentations are educational and entertaining. Preparation is the most important key to successful lecturing. Preparation involves both researching a topic thoroughly so that the material is current and doing the foundational work to ensure the presentation is organized and rehearsed. The subject matter and intellectual level of the presentation should be appropriate for the targeted audience. Pertinently, the lecturer needs to decide if a presentation will cover a subject in a generalized or detailed manner.2 This decision often will be dictated by the reason for the lecture and the amount of time allotted for it. For example, if only 1 hour is allocated for the lecture, a detailed presentation should be limited to a few subtopics.
This article offers suggestions for delivering an outstanding dental lecture. It will cover: preparedness (with respect to housekeeping chores prior to speaking to avoid potential issues), lecture presentation (effective speech delivery; eg, speed of talking), technical issues (eg, using a pointer), and other preparatory measures (eg, formulating answers to potential questions in advance of the lecture).
Technical annoyances such as equipment failures often can be avoided. Prior to lecturing, speakers need to make sure the laser pointer is working and adequately charged. Speakers may want to bring an extra battery for the pointer if they are bringing their own device. Before presenting, check the position of the lectern and move or adjust it if necessary. Find out who is working the lights. Make sure the remote control for the slide advancer is functional, and check microphone acoustics. It may be wise to carry an extra flash drive of the lecture. These preparative measures may help avoid procedural issues that can be exasperating to both the lecturer and the audience.
Introducing the Talk
Initially, speakers should state the title and purpose of their address. Presenting a brief outline of the presentation lets the audience know what direction the talk will be taking. The speaker should indicate whether questions will be entertained during or only at the end of the lecture. If questions are permitted, be prepared to politely cut them off, or else the lecture may not finish on time.
The lecture should include an introduction, the body of the talk, and a conclusion, followed by a review of what was discussed. This is called an Aristolean triptych, a method that originated in 384 BC.3 Triptych refers to tri (three) and typch (folds) or three parts of a talk.
A speaker must avoid informational overload. If spectators are overwhelmed with too much or complex information, it results in loss of their attention. If a complicated diagram is presented, the lecturer should slowly walk the audience through it, line by line, using a pointer. Otherwise the attendees may not follow the discussion.
In general, lecturers should face the audience except when using a manual pointer to direct spectators to specific items on a slide. On the other hand, if a computer is used, the cursor can be employed and the speaker should face the spectators. When a microphone is used, the presenter's volume of speech should accommodate acoustics provided by the sound system. Speakers should keep a conversational tone as if talking to a colleague, as this engages the audience.
If the speaker wishes to involve the audience, moot questions can be posed to stimulate their minds, or a query could be made to serve as an invitation for audience participation. Other important factors that engage addressees are a speaker's confidence, enthusiasm, and authenticity.
Brevity facilitates the provision of maximum information using the least number of words possible. A lecture should be succinct, direct, and to the point. Brevity is normally perceived as stylistic virtue as long as it is not achieved at the expense of clarity. Preparation will help eliminate redundancies and transitional pauses such as "and
uh." Such pauses are quite different than a dramatic or silent pause for emphasis, which should be preplanned. In Hamlet, Shakespeare states that brevity is the soul of wit. This phrase has been interpreted to mean that being brief is the essence of intelligence.4
First Impression and Appearance
Above and beyond the material being presented, the audience assesses a variety of issues with respect to the lecturer, who gets only one chance to make a good first impression. First impressions include appearance, tone, facial expressions, appropriate attire, and mindfulness of posture and gestures. Speakers should keep their hands out of their pockets and smile.
Rehearsing and Reducing Nervousness
It is normal to feel some nervousness prior to public speaking. The secret to reducing apprehension is preparation. When practicing, speakers should time their introduction, body of the speech, and conclusions with a stopwatch. They should practice transitioning from one slide to the next, and key phrases should be used to enable a continuum of thought between slides.
Speakers should not rehearse silently only in their mind, but should verbally articulate everything aloud. The more speakers practice, the less nervous they will be, no matter the audience. If a pointer is being used, it should be held with one hand; however, if the speaker's hand is shaking from apprehension, holding it with two hands or resting an elbow on the podium may help. Slow and deep breathing can also calm one's mind, body, and heart rate.5
Speed of Talking
Rehearsing the presentation will indicate to the speaker how long a lecture will take. Too many slides force a speaker to talk too quickly if lecture time is limited. Using fewer slides and speaking at a nice, conversational pace is better than rushing to cover too much information. The audience won't know that slides were removed. If a speech is running late, do not speed up; instead, skip some less important slides or say less per slide. Skipped data can be reviewed in the conclusion, or listeners may be referred to a specific publication.
A good speaker scans the room and achieves eye contact with some spectators. A rule of thumb is to make eye contact for 3 to 5 seconds with a few individuals in the front rows of the audience.6 This will help the presenter connect with the audience on a closer level.
Closure of Lecture
The concluding remarks of a presentation should do much more than simply tell the audience that the lecture is over. The entire discourse's lasting imprint can hinge on the final statements. Thus, preparing a strong ending to a lecture is every bit as important as creating a robust opening.
How to Use a Pointer
Turn the laser pointer on as needed and then turn it off when the thought is completed. Do not use it continuously. When employing a cursor, point specifically to something when talking. Do not make strokes with the pointer. Words to be emphasized can be underlined with the cursor. When discussing a table, first read the title, and then direct the audience with the pointer to the row (horizontal) and column (vertical) on the slide that is being addressed.
Two simple slides are better than one complex slide. In the author's opinion, each slide should have no more than two to four facts and contain six or fewer lines of text. Having too many lines of text can disengage spectators. Take the necessary time to convey the message on the slide, but plan to discuss each slide for usually 1 to 2 minutes. Graphics should support, not detract from, the text information. Do not rush through images such as photographs; they need to be presented long enough so that an audience can digest what is being shown.
With respect to colors, basic hues should be used with high contrast between background and text. For instance, dark blue backgrounds can be used with white or yellow text or black backgrounds with white, gold, or green. A white background can be employed with dark lettering. No more than three colors should be used on a single slide. Red should be avoided as a text hue, as it does not project well.
In general, font size for slide titles should be 40 or 44 point, while main text typeface should be size 24 to 36.7 Although size 18 fonts may be legible, they can be difficult to read. The use of italics, which is not easily viewed, should be avoided, especially in smaller fonts.
Graphs and Charts
Speakers should create their own graphs and charts. The author has found that for slides with a two-column table, to achieve optimal visibility the maximum number of rows should not exceed eight. For a three- to five-column table, no more than six rows should be used.
Using material from a publication may violate copyright laws unless the publisher has granted permission or you, the speaker, are the original author. If copying photographs, give credit by adding the author's name at the bottom of the slide.
Other Preparatory Procedures
"Show Biz" Review
Speakers should be their own critic during rehearsal. If the lecture has portions that are boring, delete them or modify the material to make it more interesting. Segments that may be too complicated should be edited or simplified. Consider the use of photographs or other graphics to illustrate points. Albert Einstein once said, if you know your material you can state it simply.8 With respect to controversial remarks, be prepared to support debatable statements and leave room for other opinions.
Questions and Answers
Think through five questions the audience may ask. Prior to presenting, formulate the answers and consider preparing slides to respond to anticipated questions. Repeat posed queries before answering them and keep responses brief. If speakers do not know the answer, they should provide what information they have and then say they are unaware of the specific answer to the question.
What Audiences Remember
Immediately after a lecture, spectators retain 50% of what was discussed.9 The next day, they remember 25%, and after 1 week, only 10% of the information is usually recollected.9 Tools such as stories, analogies, examples, and repetition of important points can be utilized to help audiences remember key statements.
In conclusion, the 10 most important suggestions for giving an outstanding lecture are: (1) Prepare and rehearse your talk well in advance of the presentation date. (2) Consider the target audience. (3) Engage some spectators in discussion. (4) Create slides that are not too busy. (5) Use a conversational tone, but speak loudly enough so the audience can hear you. (6) Employ the laser pointer intermittently. (7) Do not read the slides. (8) Face listeners when lecturing; do not continuously look at the slides. (9) If time is running out, do not speed up; instead, skip slides, or say less per slide. (10) Smile and enjoy the presentation.
About the Author
Gary Greenstein, DDS, MS
Former Clinical Professor, Department of Periodontology, College of Dental Medicine,
Columbia University, New York, New York;
Private Practice, Freehold, New Jersey
1. Chen J. 4 types of public speaking. LinkedIn website. April 12, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/4-types-public-speaking-jessica-chen-keynote-speaker. Accessed December 21, 2022.
2. Kokich MK, Kokich VG. Effective teaching: the art of engagement: Part 1. J Orthod. 2006;33(2):125-132.
3. Chiron P. Relative dating of the Rhetoric to Alexander and Aristotle's Rhetoric: a methodology and hypothesis. Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric. 2011;29(3):236-262.
4. "Brevity is the soul of wit" meaning and context. No Sweat Shakespeare website. https://nosweatshakespeare.com/quotes/famous/brevity-is-the-soul-of-wit/. Accessed December 21, 2022.
5. Clayton D. Guide: how to stop your voice and hands shaking. Simply Amazing Training website. September 10, 2018. https://simplyamazingtraining.co.uk/blog/shaking-public-speaking#long-term. Accessed December 21, 2022.
6. Kokich MK, Kokich VG. Effective teaching: the art of engagement: Part 2. J Orthod. 2006;33(3):213-219.
7. Albert Einstein quotes. BrainyQuote website. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/albert_einstein_383803. Accessed December 21, 2022.
8. Basu S. How to choose the best font for PowerPoint presentations. GoSkills website. https://www.goskills.com/Microsoft-Office/Resources/Best-font-for-PowerPoint-presentation. Accessed December 21, 2022.
9. Malcom J. How much of your presentation will they remember? Jack Malcolm website. http://jackmalcolm.com/2012/08/how-much-of-your-presentation-will-they-remember/. Accessed December 21, 2022.