From Student to Teacher: Tips for Successful Presentations

Alexa M. Mieses, MD, MPH


June 14, 2017

Being a physician is being a teacher. Physicians teach patients, students, and peers all the time. Opportunities to educate occur in both formal and informal settings, with advance notice and on the fly. Building a strong foundation of teaching skills before becoming a fully fledged physician is important, and residency training provides that opportunity.

A recent study in Medical Education found that residents had three different attitudes about teaching: enthusiastic, reluctant, and rewarded. This study found that enthusiastic teachers are committed, they make time to teach, and teaching increases their job satisfaction. Reluctant teachers have enthusiasm but are typically early in their training and feel limited by clinical workload and unprepared. Rewarded teachers feel that teaching is worthwhile and derive satisfaction from the rewards and recognition they receive for teaching.

No matter your attitude about teaching, a few tips can help you become an effective resident-as-teacher!

Formal Presentation

Whether you like it or not, being in medicine means that, at some point, you will give a formal presentation to learners or colleagues. You may be asked to present a case at a morbidity and mortality (M&M) conference, deliver a morning report, or present research at a local or national conference. Whatever the case, the most common presentation is the slideshow.

Before beginning to actually piece together your presentation, start the planning process. First, consider how much time you have to present, which will dictate what you can cover. Then, determine who your audience is. What would you like them to know or learn? Think about ideas or concepts that will require visual aids such as flow charts, images, tables, or graphs. Consider the sources (eg, databases, textbooks) you will need in order to provide the most compelling information for your presentation.

One good tip is that compiling information in prose format first is helpful. This allows a better organization of thoughts and also provides an opportunity to work on assembling visual aids. Once this is complete, you can begin to think about how to break down the big load of information into smaller digestible bites.

Each smaller bite of information can then be represented by a slide. An effective presentation is one in which the slides are not loaded with words. Honestly, the fewer words on a slide, the better. Think of the slideshow as simply the means to support what you are already saying verbally. You do not want the audience focused on reading information while you are speaking. The slide should be available to remind the audience of the most important points or to provide a visual aid that makes the verbal information easier to understand. All of this allows the presenter to be more engaged with the audience, rather than simply joining them in reading off of a slide.

Here are a few slides that every single presentation should include: first, a title slide. This should include the title of the presentation, your name, your position, and the date. Next, you should have a slide that includes goals and objectives. Goals are broad, overarching ideas. Objectives are actual tasks, skills, or actions your audience should be able to take or perform by the end of your presentation.

Here are some examples:

Goal Objective
To provide a brief overview of cardiac physiology Calculate cardiac output
To compare and contrast population health versus public health Name one online resource from which you can retrieve public health data
To discuss treatment for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections Name two oral and two intravenous antibiotics that treat MRSA

Finally, every presentation should include a slide for sources and a final slide to acknowledge others who assisted the project, case, or presentation in some way.