10 tips for presenting at a medical tourism event

Have you ever sat through a presentation at a medical tourism conference and thought, “Why did I bother?” With several medical tourism conferences coming up, Keith Pollard suggests some ways to improve the standard of presentations at these events and identifies what works and what doesn’t.

Have you ever sat through a presentation at a medical tourism conference and thought, “Why did I bother?” With several medical tourism conferences coming up, Keith Pollard suggests some ways to improve the standard of presentations at these events and identifies what works and what doesn’t.

I’ve sat through a multitude of presentations at medical tourism conferences and congresses around the world. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the very ugly. I think I’m a pretty good judge of what works and what doesn’t.
When I get asked to do a presentation at one of these conferences, I always stick around to hear what others have to say. The conference organiser has usually paid for me to go there, so I regard it as my “duty” to listen to what other speakers have to say. Hopefully, I will learn something. (I was there at 7pm when the last presentation ended on the final day of the 2012 health tourism congress in Ankara!). But I’m often disappointed by the quality of the contributions made from the platform. Very often, it’s a case of a well informed and knowledgeable speaker with some valuable content who is just not very good at getting his or her message across in a conference presentation.
I make quite a few presentations at healthcare events in the UK and medical tourism conferences around the globe, and I’m told I do a pretty good job. So, I have decided it is about time I shared my secret with others who have to step up to the lectern.
Here are my top ten tips on how to improve your presentation skills and some specific recommendations on addressing a medical tourism audience.

1. Get trained

I am fortunate to have started my working life in a company where they believed that effective presentation skills were an essential requirement for career success. My first job was in marketing and brand management in the pharmaceuticals industry. At a young age, I was faced with the daunting prospect of addressing an audience of 300 plus hardened sales reps at the annual conference and quarterly sales briefings. The company trained me in how to do this well. I attended in-house and external training courses on presentations. My presentations were video’d and then picked apart by an external trainer. My strengths and weaknesses were highlighted.
My training in those early years has been absolutely invaluable in my working life. It gave me confidence, it ingrained in me what works and doesn’t work in presenting to an audience.
If you have to make presentations… go and get some training in how to do it well. There are lots of excellent companies out there that will improve your presentations by 100% and more. It will pay dividends.

2. Plan and rehearse

“If you fail to plan… you plan to fail” is standard business advice and it applies to presentations. Give yourself plenty of time to plan and prepare your presentation.

  • Don’t throw it together on the plane or the train to the conference… or in the hotel the night before.
  • Don’t just churn out what you did last time. The “medical tourism guru” who started his presentation in Chicago last year with the opening comment of “If you were here last year, then you need to know I’m giving the same presentation” should not have been surprised that quite a few of his audience left at that point! If you are giving a presentation on a similar theme, update the data, use recent examples and keep it fresh.
  • .. If you want to do a decent job, then you need to allow enough preparation time. If you’re making a 30 minute presentation, then you need to spend at least 3-4 hours working on it.
  • .. make sure you understand who the audience are, and pitch your presentation at what they want to know. For example, if you are speaking in Malaysia, do some in-depth research on the Malaysian healthcare and medical tourism sector before you spout forth your views.

3. How to kick off

First impressions count when you are making a presentation. Your first words may determine whether your audience decides that you’re worth listening to or whether they will catch up on their email on their iPad.

  • Grab their interest in your first few words. Use one of the tried and tested techniques for opening a presentation – a quotation; ask the audience a question…
  • Tell them what you are going to tell them about.
  • Tell them WHY they should listen (and why they should listen to you.
  • Tell them how you will deal with questions – at the end, or are you happy to take questions at any time.

4. Grab attention

A presentation is like a story. It needs a theme… and a beginning, a middle and an end. As you progress through your presentation you need to plan some “attention grabbers” where you can bring back those in the audience who have become bored or who may be catching up on their email. Here are a few ideas you might try:
a. Make people think about what you are saying. Fire a question at them. Ask “how many of you have/think/believe…? “ and get them to put their hands up.
b. Tell a good story. A personal anecdote about something that happened to you in a hospital that demonstrates a point about medical tourism.
c. Do something unexpected.
d. Use humour. Tell a joke… BUT ONLY if it is relevant to the topic.
e. Know which countries are represented in your audience and mention these countries by name in your presentation.

5. “YOU appeal”

Some of my earliest presentation training was provided by Tack International. The underlying philosophy of their business is “YOU appeal” and it’s one thing they drive home in their presentation training. A conference presentation must be about YOU – the audience, not about YOU – the speaker. So when you are making a key point in a presentation, it’s vital to focus on how this affects YOU – the audience. How can this information benefit YOU – the audience, YOUR business, YOUR hospital, YOUR clinic.

6. Make it visual

Every presentation works better with visual support, and that normally means PowerPoint. But PowerPoint doesn’t have to be boring:

  • Use it to support and reinforcewhat you are saying. Don’t use it to replace or repeat what you are saying.
  • Keep the slides simple. I aim to use NO MORE than 15-20 words on a slide. Ideally, less!
  • Use BIG FONTS. And be consistent. In my presentations, I never use fonts smaller than 24 points. Maximum of three fonts in one presentation – Title font, content font and perhaps an attention grabbing font for important points.
  • Each slide should support ONE idea.
  • Use pictures and graphs rather than words. Visualise your idea.
  • One slide per minute at most. So… for a 20 minute presentation… 20 slides.

7. Be original

How many times have I heard the “medical tourism isn’t new, it’s been around since Greek/Roman/ancient times” story? People want to hear about the future not about the past. If you are going to talk about the past, use lessons from history to show we should change things in the future.
Above all, don’t rip off other people’s material or research. ALWAYS reference other people’s material. If you don’t know about a subject, don’t cover up your lack of knowledge by copying and pasting wholesale from the works of others. (I’ve seen it done… but I won’t name the guilty party!)

8. Language

Nearly all of the medical tourism events that I have attended have used English as the congress language… which is fine if you are an English speaker but makes it hard work if English is not your native language. I’m lucky, I’m English… but when I speak at a medical tourism conference I speak a different kind of English to the English I use at home:

  • I speak much…. more…… SLOWLY.
  • I use SIMPLE words and phrases.
  • I speak very CLEARLY.

At medical tourism conferences, I have heard native English speakers with excellent points to make who have failed completely to get their message across because they spoke in a manner and at a speed that gave the audience little chance to comprehend. Some (but not all!) Americans are guilty of this… their speed of delivery leaves many in the audience completely missing the point.

9. Stick to time

If there’s one thing that bugs me… it’s a speaker who has no idea of time. If you are booked for a 20 minute slot, then that means 20 minutes, not 25, not 30. Run through your presentation in advance and check the timing. Mark on your notes the half way point, the 15 minute mark and so on. When I speak, I use the stopwatch on my iPhone to track my progress. And I finish on time… and in time for questions.

10. Last words…

Decide in advance how you want to close your presentation. Don’t just drift towards the end. Use these tried and tested techniques.

  • Summarise your key points – make it brief and punchy.
  • Reflect your underlying theme.
  • Give the audience a call to action.
  • If you stated with a quote, consider finishing with a quote.
  • Finish with a thought provoking question.
  • Invite questions.

And practise your close!

Your chance to impress me!

I’ll be attending the International Medical Travel Exhibition & Conference (IMTEC) in Monaco in a few weeks time. I’m looking forward to some of the best presentations this year on medical tourism!
Please don’t disappoint your audience. They have come along away to hear what you have to say.


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As Editor in Chief of International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ) and a Healthcare Consultant for LaingBuisson, Keith Pollard is one of Europe’s leading experts on private healthcare, medical tourism and cross border healthcare, providing consultancy and research services, and attending and contributing to major conferences across the world on the subject. He has been involved in private healthcare, medical travel and cross border healthcare since the 1990s. His career has embraced the management of private hospitals in the UK, research and feasibility studies for healthcare ventures, the marketing and business development aspects of healthcare and medical travel and publishing, research and consultancy on cross border healthcare.