Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tips for lecturing to med students and residents

In all seriousness though, I've been to more than my share of lectures for med students, residents, and beyond. I've heard some people who were clearly naturally good speakers but didn't know how to give a good lecture. Anyway, in my opinion, these are tips you can do to give a good powerpoint lecture:

1) Lots of pictures! Pictures to illustrate your points, not stupid clipart.

2) Limit the number of words on a slide. One thing that drives me nuts is a slide filled with so much text, you can't even begin to read it. What's the point?

3) Involve the audience if possible. A good speaker is engaging without having to even talk to the audience, but if you're like me and not the greatest speaker of all time, asking questions of the audience keeps them awake.

4) Involve the audience BUT don't pick on the audience. I still will never forgive this pathologist who called on me by name to answer a question during a grand rounds with like 200 people in the audience. Even in a small group, I think it's kind of mean.

5) Don't have text fly in from off the screen. Do people still do this? If so, stop it.

6) Don't go into too much detail about research studies. Especially YOUR research studies. Unless of course, it's a journal club.

7) Repeat key points. I've read that people can retain 3 points from any lecture, so figure out what those 3 points should be and make sure to hammer them home.

8) Don't go on too long. After a certain point, no matter how good your lecture is, everyone just wants to leave and won't hear a word you're saying.

Also, if you can possibly manage, do NOT show photos of your children and/or dog during the lecture. Seriously, I hate that. (I'm sorry, I didn't mean that. Your kids are adorable. I love that little hat your daughter is wearing.)


  1. Don't read your slides to the audience. Hopefully then can read.

  2. Sadly a correct presentation is the exact opposite of what the med students want, seriously. They want every possible thing that could ever been tested on written in full on the slides. Rather than *gasp* taking notes on what I'm talking about or reading the damn book. Maybe it was because I was a social science major in undergrad but taking notes isn't all that hard especially in embryology and anatomy. Also with Journal Club, a good piece of advice is a choice of article. Don't pick a Nature paper with 10 5-part (A-E) figures and 87 pages of supplemental information and send out 3 papers that are supporting information on the topic. If you do, do not expect us to 1)read all of it, 2) not fall asleep when you attempt to get through all of it in a 45 min setting and 3) then get pissed and write a strongly worded email after none of us have questions. Sorry, long week.

  3. My favorite is lecturers who don't like the microphone - they inevitably say 3 or 4 words into it, then take it off and confidently announce that they are going to just SPEAK LOUDLY and not use the microphone! "Can you hear me okay?"

    They always look so crushed when everyone in the back row yells back "No!"

    Please use the microphone. It will not bite you.

  4. This is actually really good advice for anyone giving a lecture. Too much text on a slide is one of my pet peeves. Bullet a few points, then the speaker should elaborate on each as they're speaking. If your just going to put all your thoughts on the slide, you could just hand out a pamphlet and let the audience read it,you no longer need to talk about it, all the info is right there.

  5. SuFu: they do the same stuff in grad school for history and Classical Languages majors. One of my professors told me that this was because we'd already identified ourselves as masochists by applying to the program.

    No, all those articles didn't get read either.

  6. There's an old set of rules on how to give a talk for technical conferences -- so old that it refers to slides placed on an overhead projector -- but some still apply.

    One is how to tell if there is too much on your slide: if you hold it upside down and look at it in a mirror, it should still be readable. If not, too much stuff on the slide.

    Still kinda works.

  7. I agree TOTALLY with limited words and NOT READING the slides!!!! We had one guy that literally cut-and-pasted Robbins txt on liver failure then sat and read the 200 words/slide presentation to us. Verbatim. For an hour.

    One prof passed around a sheet of paper and told us to put our names on it. Then he collected it and went down the list asking, by name, the answers to his questions.

    He was quite lighthearted about it and people actually sat up and listened (instead of playing videogames). I thought it was a pretty sweet tactic. Plus I think all med students can use practice at thinking on the spot (at least I can!)

  8. Being in PA school and suffering daily powerpoint overload, you have described my daily thoughts :)

    We have even started a SPH (slides per hour) spreadsheet to determine how long we will have to suffer through some of those powerpoint lectures. (yes, we're nerds...can you blame us?)

    The best lecturers can make the most boring subjects funny and entertaining, yet are still educational.
    Thanks for sharing! :)

  9. I've stopped going to lectures where the prof is known to read off the slide- pointless. The best lecturers are the ones that give candy :)

  10. 3D might be good until you get to the STD portion of path.

  11. I once showed a pic of my cheeky five month old daughter smiling and flipping me off from her bouncy chair. This is one of the only kid pics I deemed allowable.

  12. Had a neurologist who was in charge of teaching medical students, and every presentation he would have at least 5 slides of pictures of his med school reunion, or holiday photos, or photos of nature he liked to take.

    Needless to say, know a lot about his holidays, know absolutely nothing about neurology as he never managed to get around to actual neurology.

  13. My prof was once stopped on a slide and talking for so long that his screensaver went off. It was a bunch of pictures from his vacation to Paris so instead of continuing the lecture, he just showed us his holiday pictures instead.

  14. '5) Don't have text fly in from off the screen. Do people still do this? If so, stop it.'

    All the freakin' time!

  15. Grumpy: There should be so little written on a slide that reading it isn't an option. Just a few bullet points that must be expanded on by the speaker.

    ABB: I don't think it's nice to call on people, but that's just me...

    Giz: I only once showed a photo of my daughter. The talk I was giving was Q&A's, and there was a photo of her age 1 holding the following doll and my question was, "What is wrong with this doll?"

    The answer was, "It has buttocks where its face should be." (It's Mr. Thompson from South Park)

    AcetylCholine: In one lecture I had, every letter had to fly in. And b/c the computer was broken, it slowed down and each slide literaly took 10 minutes to fly into the screen.

  16. we have way too many boring professors who speak far too slowly at my school. i knit to stay awake in class

  17. I am in vet school and all the professors put pictures of puppies and kittens, etc. on the slides. I have often wondered what professors in human med school do.

    It's okay to ask questions but please don't ask for answers that are on the next slide. Everyone has a computer open and it is just uncomfortable when a professor asks for, say, a differential when the answer is right in front of the students. We want to say something but answering correctly is awkward (yes, we can read) but answering incorrectly is also awkward (what, we can't read?)

    Also, besides too many words per slide, also too many slides. 120 slides is NOT appropriate for a 50-minute lecture. 40 seems to be about the right number but 30-50 can be ok, depending on the subject and the lecturer.

  18. What a perfect time to read this. I'm giving a talk on Monday and I am slightly petrified... but I am taking your tips into account. Thanks!

  19. I could simplify all the advice to lecturers by saying only: Don't use PowerPoint! Anything else you do will be brilliant compared to even the best PP lecture. I promise.

  20. Leah: I don't know about that. I had a lecturer in med school who got up in front of us and just talked for the entire hour with no slides. After ten minutes, I wanted to KILL myself.

  21. more pictures:) this cracked me up real gooooddd.