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Presentations in Medicine & Science

Resources to help assist you make good presentations in different formats. Posters and oral presentations

Structuring the Talk

Preparing a talk always takes far longer than you anticipate. 

Start early!

  • Write a clear statement of the problem and its importance.
  • Research. Collect material which may relate to the topic.
  • Tell a story in a logical sequence.
  • Stick to the key concepts. Avoid a description of specifics and unnecessary details. 
  • If you are making a series of points, organize them from the most to the least important. The less important points can be skipped if you run short of time.
  • Keep your sentences short, about 10-20 words each is ideal. This is the way people usually talk.
  • Strive for clarity. Are these the best words for making your point? Are they unambiguous? Are you using unfamiliar jargon or acronyms? If so, define them or spell them out in full.

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Three Types of Patient Presentations

New Patient

New patients get the traditional History and Physical Exam (H&PE) with assessment and plan.

  • Give the chief complaint and a brief and pertinent History of Present Illness (HPI).
  • Next give important Past Medical History (PMH), Past Surgical History (PSH), etc. The Review of Systems (ROS) is often left out, as anything important was in the History of Present Illness (HPI).
  • The Physical Exam (PE) is reviewed. Only give pertinent positives and negatives.
  • The assessment and plan should include what you think is wrong and, briefly, why.
  • Then, state what you plan to do for the patient, including labs.
  • Be sure to know why things are being done since you will be asked.


The follow-up presentation differs from the presentation of a new patient.It is an abridged presentation, perhaps referencing major patient issues that have been previously presented, but focusing on new information about these issues and/or what has changed.

  • Give the patient’s name
  • Age
  • Date of admission
  • Briefly review the present illness, physical examination and admitting diagnosis.
  • Report any new finding, laboratory tests, diagnostic procedures and changes in medications.


The attending physician will ask the patient’s permission to have the student present their case. After making the proper introductions the attending will let the patient know they may offer input or ask questions at any point. When presenting at bedside the student should try to involve the patient.

Preparing Slides

Presentation Design:

  • Don’t overload your slides with too much text or data.
  • FOCUS. In general, using a few powerful slides is the aim.
  • Let the picture or graphic tell the story. Avoid text.
  • Type key words in the PowerPoint Notes area listing what to say when displaying the slide. The notes are printable and do not appear on the slides.
  • Number your slides and give them a title.
  • Use the “summary slide” feature in slide sorter view to prepare an Agenda or Table of Contents slide.
  • Prepare a company logo slide for your presentation.
  • You can add a logo and other graphics to every slide using the slide master feature.
  • Proofread everything, including visuals and numbers.
  • Keep “like” topics together
  • Strive for similar line lengths for text.

Visual Elements

  • A font size of 28 to 34 in a bold is recommended for subtitles.
    • The title default size is 44
    • Use a san serif font for titles
  • Use clear, simple visuals. Graphics should make a key concept clearer
  • Use contrast: light on dark or dark on light.
  • Place your graphics in a similar location within each screen.
  • To temporarily clear the screen press W or B during the presentation. Press Enter to resume the presentation.


  • Font size must be large enough to be easily read. Size 28 to 34 with a bold font is recommended.
  • It is distracting if you use a wide a variety of fonts.
  • Overuse of text is a common mistake.
    • Too much text makes the slide unreadable. You may just as well show a blank slide. Stick to a few key words. 
    • If your audience is reading the slides they are not paying attention to you. If possible, make your point with graphics instead of text.
    • You can use the Word Art feature in Powerpoint, or a clip art image of a sign, to convey text in a more interesting way.


  • Numbers are usually confusing to the audience. Use as few as possible and allow extra time for the audience to do the math.
  • Numbers should never be ultra precise:
    • “Anticipated Revenues of $660,101.83” looks silly. Are your numbers that accurate? Just say $660 thousand.
    • “The Break Even Point is 1048.17 units”. Are you selling fractions of a unit?
    • Don’t show pennies. Cost per unit is about the only time you would need to show pennies.
  • If you have more than 12-15 numbers on a slide, that’s probably too many.
  • Using only one number per sentence helps the audience absorb the data.


  • Use the same scale for numbers on a slide. Don’t compare thousands to millions.
  • Cite your source on the same slide as the statistic, using a smaller size font.


  • Charts need to be clearly labeled. You can make more interesting charts by adding elements from the drawing toolbar.
  • Numbers in tables are both hard to see and to understand. There is usually a better way to present your numerical data than with columns and rows of numbers. Get creative!
  • PowerPoint deletes portions of charts and worksheets that are imported from Excel, keeping only the leftmost 5.5 inches.


  • The background of a slide should never distract from the presentation.
  • Using the default white background is hard on the viewer’s eyes. You can easily add a design style or a color to the background.
  • Backgrounds that are light colored with dark text, or vice versa, look good. A dark background with white font reduces glare.
  • Colors appear lighter when projected. Pale colors often appear as white.
  • Consistent backgrounds add to a professional appearance.
  • For a long presentation, you may want to change background designs when shifting to a new topic or section.


  • Sounds and transition effects can be annoying. Use sparingly.
  • Animation effects can be interesting when used in moderation.
    • Too much animation is distracting.
    • Consider using animated clip art
    • Consider using custom animation
  • You can insert video and audio clips into PowerPoint.
  • You can also insert hyperlinks.

Hints for Efficient Practice

Timing - Practicing Your Presentation:

PowerPoint has many features that will help you give a smooth and professional presentation. This document will help you prepare your presentation by providing useful information and making you feel comfortable with your presentation.

  • Rehearsing Presentations
    Rehearsing is just as important as the work you put into creating your presentation. It is especially important if you have applied builds, transitions and/or other elements, and are working in the automatic advance mode because you will need to keep control of the timing of all these elements to prevent mistakes.
  • Working with Slide Timing
    PowerPoint offers a number of options in regard to the timing of the slides in your presentation. You can assign timing manually, suppress it during a presentation, or remove it. Talk through your presentation to see how much time you use for each slide. Set the automatic slide transition to the amount of time you want to spend discussing each slide. Decide if you want to remove the automatic slide transition feature before giving the presentation.
  • Embedding Fonts
    When you create your presentation, it is best to embed the fonts in case the computer with which you actually present does not have all of the fonts you used. Embedding fonts will also enable you to avoid problems with bullet shape and helps make your presentation more portable. This can be done after your slides are already written.


  • Make a list of key words/concepts for each slide
  • Read through the list before you begin.
  • Don't attempt to memorize your text or read it to your audience
  • Your words will probably be different each time you practice.
  • Think about the ideas, and your words will follow naturally.

Delivering the Presentation

Pre-Talk Preparation:

  • Plan to get there a few minutes early to set up and test the equipment.
  • Dress appropriately for your audience.
  • Turn off your cell phone.


  • Speakers may want to prepare a handout when giving a PowerPoint presentation.
  • Make about 10% more handouts than you expect to use.
  • Distribute handouts at the beginning of your talk than leave some extras by the entrance to the room for latecomers.  


  • Jump right in and get to the point.
  • Give your rehearsed opening statement; don't improvise at the last moment.
  • Use the opening to catch the interest and attention of the audience.
  • Briefly state the problem or topic you will be discussing.
  • Briefly summarize your main theme for an idea or solution by restating your initial objectives.


  • Talk at a natural, moderate rate of speech
  • Project your voice; standing up straight helps
  • Speak clearly and distinctly.
  • Repeat critical information.
  • Pause briefly to give your audience time to digest the information on each new slide.
  • Don’t read the slides aloud. Your audience can read them far faster than you can talk.

Body Language:

  • Keep your eyes on the audience
  • Use natural gestures.
  • Don’t turn your back to the audience.
  • Don’t hide behind the lectern.
  • Avoid looking at your notes. Only use them as reference points to keep you on track. Talk, don’t read.


  • Always leave time for a few questions at the end of the talk.
  • If you allow questions during the talk, the presentation time will be about 25% more than the practice time.
  • You can jump directly to a slide by typing its number or by right-clicking during the presentation and choosing from the slide titles.
  • Relax. If you’ve done the research you can easily answer most questions.
  • Some questions may be too specific or personal. Politely refuse to answer.
  • If you can’t answer a question, say so. Don’t apologize.  “I don’t have that information. I’ll try to find out for you.”


  • To end on time, you must PRACTICE!
  • When practicing, try to end early. You need to allow time for audience interruptions and questions.


  • Show some enthusiasm. Nobody wants to listen to a dull presentation. On the other hand, don’t overdo it. Nobody talks and gestures like a maniac in real life. How would you explain your ideas to a friend?
  • Involve your audience. Ask questions, make eye contact, and use humor.
  • Don’t get distracted by audience noises or movements.
  • You’ll forget a minor point or two. Everybody does.
  • If you temporarily lose your train of thought you can gain time to recover by asking if the audience has any questions.


  • Concisely summarize your key concepts and the main ideas of your presentation.
  • Resist the temptation to add a few last impromptu words.
  • End your talk with the summary statement or question you have prepared. What do you want them to do? What do you want them to remember?
  • Consider alternatives to “Questions?” for your closing slide. A summary of your key points, a cartoon, a team logo, or a company logo may be stronger.

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