Article by Heather Haugen, PhD from Atos Digital Health Solutions.
I got the call on a Thursday afternoon, an invitation to present at a healthcare conference. I was passionate about the topic. I thought the message would resonate with the audience and would be valuable to our company’s growth. It seemed like a recipe for success. The deadline for content had a tight turnaround, so I spent my weekend considering a compelling story and message. I enjoy the process of sharing our research and learning from healthcare leaders- it energizes me.
Then it started. The PowerPoint slides suddenly became the most important deliverable. I started the journey with three collaborators within our organization which quickly grew to more than ten. I received 22 PowerPoint slide decks, totally over 250 slides, and everyone had a slide that MUST be included. Just 3 days before the presentation, I wondered if one of the new medication delivery robots would be more effective delivering my disconnected set of slides. My passion for the subject waned and I had completely lost the original point of view. The message was buried somewhere in the deck. I even tried to create a new message from the current slide deck- a dreadful mistake and luckily that didn’t work either.
Fortunately, we did a collective reset on our message, but it wasn’t easy to remove content from my colleagues and move away from a more collaborative process. There was significant push back and the deadline had everyone sweating. Here is what concerns me most, earlier in my career I would have stayed the course with the growing slide deck in an effort to be a team player and include the many great ideas. I may have even pretended to understand all the diagrams and cool graphics that landed in my inbox because they were impressive representations of the market, our solutions, and trends in healthcare. The information in all the slides was interesting and often relevant, but it didn’t represent a thoughtful compelling story that met the needs of our audience.
I know my experience isn’t unique because I regularly attend conference presentations where PowerPoint has clearly drowned out the important message. Healthcare is undergoing a tremendous amount of change and the stakes have never been higher to ensure we deliver value. We must give time back to clinicians, better care to patients, and drive improved outcomes across every healthcare interaction.
If you miss the opportunity to communicate to your board, to healthcare leaders, or to your clients- you rarely get a second opportunity to gain their mindshare. Your most important initiatives deserve clarity, purpose, and passion. This requires thoughtful, strategic, and innovative thinking, not more PowerPoint slides.
PowerPoint is an amazing tool when used effectively to communicate a compelling message. If you need to break the habit of relying too heavily on your slides- consider the following:
- Always define your message first and develop your slides to fit the message.
- Resist the temptation to borrow other people’s slides unless you can communicate the message as your own.
- Spend 80% of your planning what to say and 20% of your time creating slides. Way too many of us do the reverse.
- Practice, practice, practice. The audience always knows when you are overly reliant on your slides.
The next time you have something important to say, consider communicating it without PowerPoint, I dare you!
About the Author
Heather Haugen, PhD is the Chief Science Officer at Atos Digital Health Solutions. Heather is faculty at the University of Colorado where she teaches and mentors graduate student in Health Information Technology research. If you’d like to connect with Heather, you can follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter or visit the Atos Digital Health Solutions website for more info on Atos. Check out the Atos series of Health IT content on Healthcare IT Today.