President's Message - Are you an Engaging Speaker?

by Mike Fotis, ICHP President
August 5, 2014

Most of us appreciate a presentation that includes audience participation questions. Your questions provide a break in the routine, help the audience to maintain focus, and when properly written and presented, can help our members to go beyond fact recall and learn to apply the presented material. Your questions might even encourage a few in the audience to look away from their mobile phones! 

Sometimes, however, speakers use this opportunity to question the audience about some facts that are about to be presented. Most of the audience resorts to guessing and each of the four possible choices ends up with 25% of the response. The same questions are repeated at the end of the lecture, usually the audience gets the right answers on the second attempt, and the speaker and ICHP can show that the audience learned something (outcomes data are required by ACPE). However, most of our members attend educational programming to pick up more than one or two new facts. If accumulating facts was the route to becoming an excellent pharmacist, well we all would be there, wouldn't we?  No need for ICHP to offer continuing education at our annual meeting…right? No, there is a different purpose. I think most people attend our educational meetings to learn how to apply these new facts in their own clinical settings. The presented information can help us to set new priorities and to develop new ways of doing things.  Learning to use the newly acquired information using evidence based principles is vital to our practitioners. 

Of course the paved road is the smoothest route and too many speakers choose only fact based participation questions, and some speakers seem to think the more obscure the fact, the better.  Readers likely remember that I believe it is a time to Be Bold, and I want to ask our speakers to minimize those fact-based questions and instead start your presentation with a summary of the facts. Point out the limitations of the latest evidence and move on to questions which are more applicable to practice. The application-type questions will help your audience to develop their own understanding of the material, including the limitations. Learning when to apply a rule, and when the new rule does not apply can avoid a very serious error. 

As an example, suppose you were attending a discussion about medication therapy during pregnancy. A fact-based speaker might ask the audience “what happens to renal clearance during pregnancy?” Our choices might include a) clearance remains the same; b) clearance is reduced; c) clearance is increased; or d) none of the above. Those of you who are specialists or have a bit of experience in this area of practice will choose “c” as the correct response. The rest of us will guess and the result is the audience response chart will end up like this one.

Seem familiar? Great presentation, plenty of facts, everything is great…except the audience doesn’t leave knowing how to use this information! 

On the other hand, an application-focused speaker might discuss the physiologic changes that occur during pregnancy, remind the audience of the inherent limitations of studies conducted during pregnancy and instead ask the audience to identify the medications that might be most significantly impacted by an increase in renal clearance. A question might ask, “Given that renal clearance for certain antibiotics or for low-molecular weight heparins is increased, what do you expect to happen to the half-life of these medications?” and  later to ask the groups to discuss - “What are some likely situations where a dose adjustment may be necessary and how could one monitor these things?” Don’t these questions seem more applicable to what we do as pharmacists?

Moving away from our comfort zone is hard, but it is a lot more fun! Helping our members to develop their own understanding of the presented material helps ICHP to achieve our educational purpose and can lead to some interesting and engaging discussions both during and after your presentation. One of the best situations for a presenter is to see your colleagues continue to discuss the presented issues over coffee and a chocolate chip cookie during the break session.

Please let me know what you think, and I hope to see you all at this year’s ICHP Annual Meeting this September! 

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