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Edited by G M Hall. (Pp 88; £12.95). BMJ Books, 2001. ISBN 0-727-991572-X
We have all attended poor presentations at meetings and most of us have gained our revenge by presenting poorly. In an effort to break this cycle of retribution Hall et al have produced their book How to present at meetings. This text is described as providing “a basic framework around which a proficient talk can be built” and there is no doubt that it succeeds in its aim. This short, clear and humorous book is written by a number of accomplished speakers, each of whom attempt to explain how to give a presentation that will be memorable for all the right reasons. The authors obviously write from experience and their explanations and advice are often illustrated through humorous examples of their own mistakes. This concept is taken to its logical conclusion with a whole chapter dedicated on how to get your “bad” presentation just right (or is that “just wrong?”)
Fortunately the authors take their own advice and have produced a collection of brief, clear chapters, which make for a very readable book. This format means that it can be picked up in a spare five minutes or read completely within an hour depending on circumstances. The book is aimed at those speaking at formal meetings but the advice is as relevant to local teaching as it is to an international conference.
There is plenty of advice on preparation of your presentation and emphasis on its importance so if you are looking for short cuts you will not find them in this book. There are also chapters on the style of presentation and delivery as well as advice on stage presence from one of medicines many performers Alan Maryon Davis. The two chapters on visual aids are welcome and should be compulsory reading for anyone who ever steps to the front of a lecture theatre. One of these chapters is given over entirely to computer generated slides and will hopefully bring relief to those of us who develop a nervous twitch at the sight of spinning letters and the sound of a racing engine! Sandy Macara gives advice on dealing with questions from the audience but also on dealing with newspaper, radio and television interviews.
There is no doubt that a book like this should be required reading by anyone who makes a presentation and a departmental copy for all staff to refer to would certainly be useful. My final recommendation, however, should be that this book is posted to anyone presenting at a BAEM conference: it would improve the quality of presentation and guarantee we all get to coffee and biscuits on time!
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