While we can’t tell a mandibula from a metatarsal, we can tell the difference from a good healthcare presentation and a bad one. While the subject matter can be extremely complicated, that doesn’t mean your slideshows have to be completely impenetrable. Here are four mistakes we see in other healthcare slideshows that can be remedied to make sure your expertise in the field is better conveyed to your audience.

1. Walls of Text

Here at Slideshop, we are constantly on the lookout for slideshows that we DON’T want to emulate. While Sales, Marketing, and other corporate departments have their own problems, the presentations we come across in healthcare always have the most amount of text. They can seem a bit like this:

source: hdwa.org

We get it: healthcare presentations can be loaded with text because the topics covered are complicated. But the key point to keep in mind for better presentations is this: your slides aren’t your script. In other words, your slides should be prompts to what you are saying, not the entirety of it.

Remember, if you give an audience something to read, they’ll read. And this means they are paying attention to you less. As the UX Lead of TED Talks says:

It’s like if you give a paper handout in a meeting—everyone’s head goes down and they read, rather than staying heads-up and listening. If there are a lot of words on your slide, you’re asking your audience to split their attention between what they’re reading and what they’re hearing. That’s really hard for a brain to do, and it compromises the effectiveness of both your slide text and your spoken words.

We couldn’t agree more. If you have a lot to present on, keep the slides simple with about 4 bullet points on each one. Your own notes can be jam-packed with text, but your slides shouldn’t reflect that. Less written words means more focus on your spoken ones:

2. Length

Unless you’ve been specifically hired to present an hour-long lecture on the pancreas, there’s no good reason for your presentations to be anywhere close to that long. No matter how much information you have to convey, the people sitting in the audience are still people; and people have only so much capacity to intake and retain information. In fact, Biologist John Medina says an audience’s interest will be near zero at ten minutes.

There are absolutely tools and tricks to keep attention higher. Incorporate humor, show a short video, bring up a different speaker for a spell, etc. But ultimately, the best course of action is to give in to human brain biology and simply make your slideshow shorter. Fifteen minutes is a great length to shoot for with healthcare presentations.

The best way to shorten your slideshow is to figure out what core message you want your audience to take away from your presentation. Remember, they won’t retain more than about 3 points anyway, so even if you have a ton of information, most of it will be lost. We like this advice from Fast Company’s article on shorter presentations:

Let’s say you’re about to give a presentation to 20 people. Before the presentation I offer you $300,000 cash and say “You can have the money under one condition. After your presentation, I will approach three people from the audience and ask them to repeat to me your key messages. If all three can do it, you win the money.” If those are the conditions, you will limit your presentation to a few key messages. You’ll keep the messages short. And you’ll repeat them many times.

3. Designed for Download

This mistake is also a crutch: “well my slides are long and wordy, but it’s meant to be downloaded.”

Yes, it’s common practice to say “these slides will be available to download after this talk.” But that shouldn’t be how you design your healthcare presentation from the get-go. This is precisely the mindset that leads to long, wordy, and less-visual PowerPoint and Keynote presentations. Once you, the presenter, give yourself this “out,” your slideshow will suffer. And especially for the performance aspect of your talk, knowing that they’ll just download it later makes for lazy presenters who aren’t interested in truly engaging the audience.

Don’t design your presentation for download. Design it for that awesome, fifteen minute talk you’re about to give. Trust us, if the talk hits with the audience, they’ll want a copy of your presentation anyway and even sparse bullet points will be enough to jog their memory. Want to provide sources and more context? Utilize the speaker notes feature for additional text that won’t be visible to your audience. And guess what, you can print/prepare your slides including these speaker notes when you want to make them available for download.

4. Not Telling a Story

Even though healthcare is ultimately all about helping real people, the presentations we see are uniformly very dry and matter-of-fact. And meanwhile, there are movements in healthcare that urges students and professional to tell stories about their patients. Why shouldn’t presentations adhere to this sort of engaging method of conveying information?

The majority of humans have been reading for just a few hundred years, but we’ve been listening to stories since the dawn of language. We’ve evolved to intake information in this way best, and a good story always stays with us much longer than a list of facts and events. So don’t break doctor-patient confidentiality, but take the audience through your presentations by getting them invested in a Jane Doe or completely fictional patient. Putting a human element to your data will make your presentations incredibly effective.

Like the design of the slides in this post? Check out this specific healthcare slideshow here, and our other healthcare presentations on Slideshop.com.