Presenters design learning-centered presentations or sessions that should align with the science behind learning and knowledge development. They should take appropriate steps to prepare an engaging and thoughtful presentation and utilize learning technologies when offered and appropriate.

Learning-centered sessions should align with the science behind learning and knowledge development. We store "knowledge" in structured "schemas" (i.e., cognitive constructs that organize information according to the manner with which they will be dealt). Schemas are made up of knowledge and "know-how."

Why is this important? Our schemas determine how new information is processed and, therefore, dictate learning and change. "Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience." New or modified knowledge can only be put into practice in the form of new or modified behaviors when schemas are made or modified.

Below are steps to take in preparing for your presentation:

  1. Start With Learning Objectives:
    1. What should participants know or be able to do after engaging in your session? What are the objectives for your presentation? What are you trying to help participants learn?
    2. Avoid the trap of creating a presentation and then retrograde writing your learning objectives – start by defining what you want to teach.
    3. Create a structure for your presentation that is based on your objectives. Stick to that structure with your slides and your presentation. The structure will help you stay true to the right amount and right kind of information to help learners get to the end you have in mind.
      1. What content do you need to cover to help learners meet the objective(s)?
      2. How much time do you have? How do you fit in only content that is most needed to meet your objective(s)?
      3. As faculty, you have a specified period of time to get to your end and help learners develop new knowledge. Focus on how to help learning occur and meet the objective(s) of your presentation.
      4. Don't overwhelm learners with information and don't share material that is not germane to your objective(s).

      Video Examples

      Endocarditis of Native and Prosthetic Valves Diagnosis and Treatment Guideline (11:15)
      Faculty: Rick A. Nishimura, MD, MACC
      In this session, Rick A. Nishimura, MD, MACC uses a structure to divide the content of his presentation. A visual that depicts the structure remains visible throughout the session.

      Communicating with Patients and Families Re HCM (13:04)
      Faculty: Clyde Yancy, MD, FACC
      Clyde Yancy, MD, FACC presents his content within a structure that he revisits and summarizes at the end.

    4. State these learning objectives clearly at the beginning of the presentation. This can be on a dedicated "Learning Objectives" slide. Or you can present a brief case and they offer 2-3 "key questions" which are the learning objectives for the talk.
    5. Remind the audience at the end of the talk as to what they learned.

    Video Examples

    Who Should Get Extended Anticoagulation (1:00)
    Faculty: Geoffrey D. Barnes, MD, FACC
    In this video, Geoffrey D. Barnes, MD, FACC starts with a case (draws upon learners’ experiences) and then presents three questions that serve as the structure for his presentation. The structure helps Dr. Barnes focus on the right type and amount of content.

    The Asymptomatic Patient - Coronary Calcium and Current Risk Assessment Guidelines (0:38)
    Faculty: Michael Blaha, MD, MPH
    At the beginning of his presentation, Michael Blaha, MD, MPH tells learners exactly what he is going to cover and how he will cover the content.

  2. Know thy audience:
    1. Modulate your talk to fit the audience (i.e., will the audience be physicians, fellows, NPs, mixed; are you speaking about CHF to a general cardiology audience or to transplant specialists).
    2. Who are your learners and what are their experiences? Do you know your learners? If not, how could you get information about them?
    3. Connect your "take-away" points to learners' experiences so the take-away points are useful. Frame "take-away" points into behaviors participants will recognize. "The next time you see a patient with…" or "when dealing with "X", like we just discussed, remember to…".
  3. Remember the rules:
    1. Follow the time constraints of your talk – going overtime disrupts sessions/meetings/conferences while no one in audience minds if a talk ends a few minutes early.
  4. Presentations 101 – Developing a Presentation Framework and Ensuring Presentation Legibility:
    1. If you start presenting a slide with the statement "I know you can't read this" – STOP – and change your slide.
    2. If you start a presentation by saying "buckle your seat belt because we have a lot to cover", stop and cut 25-50% of your content. It is NOT your responsibility to cover everything. The less you cover, the more your audience will remember and take away from the presentation.
    3. No more than 5-6 lines of text per slide – large font should be visible from back of the room. If you find that you must reduce your font size to put text on a slide, consider that a cue that you are putting too many words on the slide, which will reduce its legibility.
    4. Color scheme / uniformity – avoid clashing colors; keep uniformity of fonts and grammar styles (some choose not to do this and deliver effective presentations – but do not do this because of carelessness).
    5. Whenever you can, SHOW with visuals, illustrations, graphs, etc. rather than TELL.
      1. Visuals are a powerful way to capture learners' attention, deliver a message, and make key points. Visuals can serve as "cues" to learners for knowledge and memory retrieval. Visuals will almost always be remembered more than text. The key to using graphics is to select images that are simple, benign, and readable. Ask yourself if the image will emphasize your message or distract learners from your key points.
    6. End the presentation with the most important "take-away" points.

    Video Examples

    Advanced HFREF Pearls (03:52)
    Faculty: Sanjiv Jayendra Shah, MD, FACC
    Sanjiv Jayendra Shah, MD, FACC uses pictures to illustrate his key points about identifying patients with pulmonary hypertension.

    Case Presentation How Frail Is Too Frail for VAD (00:51)
    Faculty: Larry A. Allen, MD, FACC
    Larry A. Allen, MD, FACC uses a picture to describe a patient’s motivation.

    BARISTA – 7 Steps to a More Powerful Presentation (8:33)
    Faculty: Elizabeth Klodas, MD, FACC
    This presentation discusses the BARISTA pneumonic that provides a simple checklist to maximize your chances of creating a standout talk.

Engaging speakers occupy your attention and hold your interest. Providing opportunities for participants to actively engage in a presentation facilitates learning.

When deciding what kind of strategy to utilize it's best to match strategy with your desired outcome.

  • If you are facilitating a session to help participants develop motivational interviewing skills, then offering time for role playing and practicing motivational interviewing would be a great strategy. You can get participants involved by using large or small group discussions, group activities, exercises, and/or games.
  • If you are teaching about diagnostic or therapeutic skills, consider promoting audience interaction and engagement using an audience response system (ARS) and other active learning strategies.
    • If you don't have access to an ARS, you can still engage your audience in active participation through discussions and the traditional response system (raising of hands).

Be a Facilitator of Learning

Designing an engaging session begins with focusing on your role as faculty to be a facilitator. A facilitator of learning is a person who is navigating and/or leading a process whereby others are seeking to gain knowledge. Facilitators of learning may have more knowledge but sometimes simply have different experiences that position them to lead others in discussions that will help colleagues develop new strategies and best practices. In the role of a facilitator, you will share less information (i.e., talk less) and instead prompt learners to participate in a discussion. When you facilitate a learning session, you focus on what you want the learners to know or know how to do and guide your learners to that outcome through discussions, prompts, sharing some content, and providing examples.

To plan for facilitating a session, start by creating a structure (e.g., a timed outline) for your session based on your learning objectives. Think about the content that needs to be covered to meet the objectives but remember that you don't have to deliver all the content. Identify some questions that you can ask learners to generate a discussion related to the content that will help meet your objectives. Also, develop back-up questions that you can use if discussion is slow.

Engagement with learners through a discussion allows the learning process to both begin and unfold. Through engagement, learners have time to hear new information, sync it with their own schema (knowledge structures), and begin to modify or create their own knowledge and know how.

Tips for Being a Facilitator of Learning Include:

  • Build a presentation that engages learners thru discussions instead of leaving time at the end of a presentation for Q&A.
  • Build upon the knowledge and experience of participants to make your key points.
    • Ask questions like, "Who can tell us…?" or statements like, "Let's work to solve this case together."
  • Be responsive to your audience.
    • When someone asks a question, integrate the question into a discussion with other learners with questions like, "How would others approach this situation?" or "Has anyone else had this experience? If so, what did you do?"
  • Affirm suggestions and examples.
  • Show enthusiasm and support for participation.
  • Use informal language that puts you and learners on the same level, such as," Let's look at what we will be discussing today." or "I know we have all struggled with this kind of situation."
  • Use eye contact with participants.
  • Avoid confrontational verbal and non-verbal responses.
    • Ask "why" or get additional information.
  • Support all ideas and questions but manage discussions to keep on topic. Consider using a "parking lot" for questions or points that are not germane to the immediate topic but could be referenced later if time permits.
  • Use gestures and body language that create openness with learners (e.g., walk away from the podium, walk across riser/stage to engage all learners, don't cross arms).

Video Example

Case Presentation How Frail Is Too Frail for VAD (23:10)
Faculty: Larry A. Allen, MD, FACC
Larry A. Allen, MD, FACC facilitates discussion throughout his presentation of two cases.

Use analogies to relatable non-medicine examples and tell a story

Some of the most engaging speakers hold our attention because they are masterful storytellers. Engaging speakers aren't just telling stories but using the story to make their points.

Remember that knowledge is stored with context in cognitive schemas (mental models). Experiences provide the context and allow learners to access their schema, so storytelling and analogies can be powerful. Analogies and stories can connect something new and unknown to something known and familiar. They can also illustrate key points by providing a context to which participants can relate and identify.

Consider the analogy embedded in this Albert Einstein quote.
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving."— Albert Einstein

By using the bicycle analogy, readers can think about their experiences riding a bike. Immediately, you can think about what it is like to try to balance on a bike not in motion — it's hard! But, when you think about how much easier it is to balance on a bicycle when you are peddling and moving, you can very much appreciate and grasp Albert Einstein's quote.

Although storytelling can be powerful, remember you are using the story in support of learning within a specified timeframe. Share the key parts of the story that are most relevant to the learning goals and that help you connect with your learners.

Tips for Using Analogies and Telling a Story Include:

  • Use an image or a non-clinical situation as an analogy to help make your point.
  • Start your presentation with a story and then connect the discussion points to story points.
  • Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself or share personal examples that demonstrate that you are human too.

Video Example

ACC Talk Preventing Atherosclerotic Cardiac Disease in Congenital Heart Disease (17:30)
Faculty: Ami B. Bhatt, MD, FACC
In this TED-style talk, Ami B. Bhatt, MD, FACC draws upon learners’ experiences via story-telling. In her style of story-telling, Dr. Bhatt allows learners to paint a mental picture of her patient and the patient’s experience.

Presenters may choose to utilize available interactive tools such as an audience response system (ARS) when designing their presentation to further engage learners. An ARS system offers many advantages for presenters in that it improves attentiveness of the audience, increases knowledge and retention, tracks individual responses, allows participants to answer question anonymously, displays immediate results, and most importantly creates an interactive learning environment.

To effectively use ARS, first ask yourself:

  1. How can I use an ARS to involve participants in a meaningful way?
  2. What are the key points I want participants to know or be able to do as a result of my session/presentation? What type of question(s)/activities should I utilize, that will help participants achieve this goal?
  3. What question(s)/activities could I use that would identify participants knowledge and allow for more in-depth discussion?
  4. What question(s)/activities could I incorporate that would allow me to involve participants more actively in my session?

Develop ARS questions that will elicit the desired learning, not mechanical. Don't utilize ARS just to use ARS.  If the question has little value in support of learning, then there is no need to ask it.

Faculty Tips for During a Session

  1. Inform your audience what type of engagement tool you will be using prior to the start of your presentation and provide an overview of how it works. You may consider a sample question as an ice breaker:
    1. What was the main reason you were enticed to attend this session today?
      1. The topic to be covered.
      2. The speaker(s).
      3. To fill a time slot in my schedule.
      4. All other sessions were full.
  2. Review your session objectives. What do participants need to "do" to achieve the objectives?
  3. Incorporate a variety of questions such as true/false, multiple choice to help participants engagement so that you are able to determine participants' knowledge on a given subject or topic.
  4. Develop questions for discussion that will help you determine if the audience experiences are different from yours, and different in what way(s). Ask questions like:
    1. Do you agree or disagree with this? Why?
    2. Should this change how we practice? Why or why not?
    3. Does this change your perspective? Why or why not?
  5. Based on the responses, you could ask participants about their questions immediately utilizing technology such as a chat box to identify what participants are hoping to gain from the presentation or gaps in knowledge.
  6. Use ARS to ask a problem-based question, "What do you think happened next?" or "What do you think I did?" Then, use a follow-up question, "Why?". You can facilitate a discussion with participants based on their responses or ask them to take a moment and discuss their thoughts at their table. You can also use the ARS with pre-set responses to the "why" question or ask learners to go to a microphone to comment.
  7. Ensure you allow time for discussion AND engagement when using an ARS.
  8. Be realistic about the time needed to be effective with engaging with ARS questions. When giving a 20-minute presentation, limit the number of ARS questions to no more than 2. Plan for 2-3 minutes to ask an ARS question and get responses. 
  9. If incorporating a chat box, convey how it will be used during the presentation and how the participants should utilize it to facilitate engagement.

Video Example

Advanced HFREF Pearls (03:52)
Faculty: Sanjiv Jayendra Shah, MD, FACC
In this session, Sanjiv Jayendra Shah, MD, FACC effectively uses an ARS to help learners identify their own learning needs about his topic and highlight key points.

Tip Guide | Key Points in Preparing an Effective Presentation
This document distills many of the exciting resources with updated content available to you in ACC's Faculty Resource Center and contains valuable tips to make your life easier as you prepare for ACC.23/WCC.