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Behind the scenes as an ACEP Scientific Assembly speaker, Day 2

Posted Oct 13 2009 10:06pm
Well I gave two talks yesterday. I try to be prepared for my talks but I purposefully don't over-rehearse, since I always aim to retain some freshness and unpredictability in my talks. I try to play off the audience. Some audiences are playful, some just want the facts, and some just won't crack a smile. Yesterday's audiences were very engaged and easy-going. Lots of laughing at my first session. Not so much at the second - but then Acute Limb Ischemia is hard to make funny.

My first talk was on reviewing 4 articles from the LLSA 2009 exam. These articles focused on:
  • CT and the risk of irradiation
  • Clinical practice guidelines for propofol use in the ED
  • Video on incision and drainage of abscesses
  • Unnecessary use of antibiotics for simple abscesses
I always believe that the first rule of giving lectures is to know who your audience is. That's easy - they are seasoned emergency physicians. The second rule of giving lectures is to know what your audience wants to get out of the lecture. This lecture is unique and very different from a regular lecture in that the audience is focused on getting answers to the LLSA 2009 exam.

My 4 articles covered a total of 5 questions. So I accordingly focused my talk on the bottom-line key points behind each article. There was no talk of p-values, and there were very few tables/figures. The answers to the questions were written on the slide and highlighted using yellow (instead of the usual white) font.

As I was going along, I realized that I was moving through my slides at blazing speed, and so I slowed down a bit to tell a few anecdotes and pose a few practical questions to the audience. For instance, during the article review on propofol, I shared with the audience about my difficulties in consenting patients for procedural sedation using propofol. I have had several patients ask whether this was what killed Michael Jackson. As another example, I polled the audience whether they prescribed antibiotics after drainage of an abscess. Interestingly about half of the audience raised their hands.

Despite these impromptu stories and questions, I still finished my talk in record time. 12 minutes flat. After the talk, several audience members came up to me to thank me for a very concise talk. They got what they wanted, and I didn't want to unnecessarily extend the length of my talk just to fill the 50-minute time slot.

The next talk was on Acute Limb Ischemia. I unfortunately had to follow Dr. Amal Mattu's talk on "Speaking Like a Pro". I heard laughing and lots of active discussion going on from the room, as I awaited outside to go in for my talk. Third rule of lecturing: Never follow an amazing speaker.

Honored to have Dr. Eric Snoey (Highland) introduce me.

After each lecture, I commonly get approached by physicians with either comments or questions about my talk. These often revolve around a case that they've encountered. I truly enjoy and equally dread this post-talk period. I get the opportunity to hear of challenging cases and occasionally I can contribute my 2 cents, based on my experience and reading of the literature. Often these questions push me to re-read the literature, so that I can incorporate new facts into the lecture for next time. Learning is and should be a two-way street.
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