The art of sharing knowledge

By Dr Kieren Bong / 01 Mar 2015

Dr Kieren Bong uncovers the best methods of delivering and sharing information in aesthetics

Each year, my diary contains a number of key engagements which see me swapping my Glasgow-based clinic treatment room with venues all over the world. In these venues – and these can range from university lecture theatres to exhibition halls and seminar rooms – I wear a different hat from my usual one of cosmetic doctor. I take on a new role as lecturer, trainer and key opinion leader, prepared to cover an extensive range of topics and techniques on advanced non-surgical facial aesthetics. The art of sharing accrued knowledge and expertise is one I’ve honed and fine-tuned over the last five years or so. This craft has taken me to international venues including those in Sweden, Kazakhstan, Monaco, Malta and Cyprus. More recently, I have been fortunate to take up a role with one of Norway’s most respected universities where I lecture on the topic of dermal fillers six times a year to students on the Masters degree equivalent of a postgraduate diploma in cosmetic dermatology. In this varied work, my audiences can change from a group of just 10 such students in a classroom-like setting, to almost 1,000 delegates at an international conference. For me, however, the requirements are near identical. As a result of my interest in developing how best to share the specifics of any presentation or training session, I aim to ensure that those on the receiving end of my information receive maximum benefit.

In this article I would like to share some of the presentation skills that I have learnt over the years, outline some dos and don’ts, and highlight the pitfalls to avoid if you too embark on the wonderful journey of sharing your knowledge and expertise.
In my opinion, there is a clear difference between training and presenting. It’s worth focusing on this difference and making it clear in your mind in order to correctly determine the content of what’s to be shared or communicated. 

Training: This is something that can occur in an every-day clinic setting, especially whenever a new team member joins. Training typically focuses on assisting a person or group to learn through activity, discussion and inclusion.

Presenting: This is best described as the provision of information to an audience.
Both sound straightforward enough, but the art of engaging with each focus group can present its own challenges.
Of course, there are times when the types of sharing – presenting and training – can cross over and blend together. For instance, the advanced full-face contouring and volumising treatment requires complex mapping of the face prior to the actual procedure, and the drawing of landmarks and imaginary guide lines are both presented and demonstrated live, during the same session. 
Whilst each practitioner will have a slightly different approach, the most important thing to consider when dealing with both kinds of communication is good structure and clear objectives. Although these occasions do arise, this article will focus on sharing knowledge and information specifically via presentation to an audience.

Preparation

Without question, the most important step in the process of effectively sharing knowledge is planning. As the old adage states – ‘fail to plan and you’ll plan to fail’ It’s my ‘must-do’, no matter where I’m presenting or which audience is scheduled to listen. I really can’t underline enough the importance of good prep.
As much as it’s about the attention to detail when looking after my patients in a clinical environment, detail is key when researching for a presentation. Knowing your audience is vital. Look at exactly who is attending. If the information is given, pore over who does what and where. Know how many candidates will be present, and look at their levels of experience and knowledge. As the first step when preparing for a new presentation, I will set out my objectives in list-form, and prepare an outline of a talk based on these aims. That initial draft may bear no resemblance to the end result – but it will provide me with a working document that keeps me focused on what I need to deliver. I call it my ‘work in progress’.
When the occasion or setting calls for a PowerPoint presentation, I am a great believer in ‘less is more’ – formulate the content on each slide with just enough to deliver the audience the key information. Because you will be well-prepared and rehearsed, these will provide more than enough information as aides-memoires to keep you on the correct path and on-message. Before each presentation, I always take a close look at the actual venue and the facilities available. Thanks nowadays to search engines such as Google and the wonders of the web, it is often possible to have a 360 degree virtual tour of the venue. There is no point turning up with a presentation in a format that’s not compatible with the venue’s equipment. It can
also be useful to find out the lighting options in a venue, as light can sometimes determine the style of presentation to adopt. Some event organisers provide additional external lights for the live demonstrations, especially when videographers are on-site to film the procedures for live broadcast throughout the venue. On the other hand, there have been occasions when
I have had to make do with the existing lights in the auditorium. A trainer should always be prepared to adapt to the facility that has been provided.

Engaging with your audience

In cases where my audience is located in an overseas venue, I carry out some local research and, where relevant, will work in some local references. These references will help you connect with your audience and will work to better spark their interest. It also clearly demonstrates to the audience your commitment to preparation and your respect for their time. If, for example, the presentation is going to involve a technique demonstration – perhaps a new advanced filler technique – then securing a model or several models is key to its success. To do this, work closely in advance with the event organiser and product distributor to ensure models are fully briefed on what will be involved, and to ensure that all consent protocols are satisfied. This will include both verbal and written consent. You will need your model to be as prepared and relaxed as you are when working under the spotlight. Recently at a one-day seminar and technique demonstration in London, the model I’d booked for the presentation fell sick so, at the last-minute, we were facing a crisis. No model meant I’d not be able to deliver a practical demonstration of the theory I was planning to present. Thankfully, the product distributor and I worked together and managed to secure a volunteer from one of the delegates who’d travelled from Belgium. After volunteering and signing the necessary consent forms, she gave me the green light to complete my presentation in the most effective way possible. In the event of working with a medical company, I find the preparation steps on many occasions to be simplified, as not only will the aims be made very clear at the outset, but in most cases the local product distributors will help to source the necessary model(s).

Participation

No matter the type of presentation or training masterclass you are delivering, it is crucial to promote participation. This might be in the form of half-time practise sessions and/or workshops, or staging a questions/answers session. This kind of participation has a dual- benefit for you as a presenter and a trainer. Within minutes it’s possible to ascertain how successful your delivery has been, and just how switched on the audience has remained. If there’s a hint of any failing in one or the other aspect of your presentation, then conducting any kind of participation sessions gives you the chance to redress the balance and get your audience back on track and engaging with your content. Due to the aforementioned forward planning and research you should rarely find this to be the case, and your audience should be given multiple opportunities to engage via the mix of PowerPoint presentation slides or live demonstrations.

Potential pitfalls

So what are the things to look out for when sharing knowledge in this way, be it training, presenting or running a workshop? First of all, you may well need to handle resistance from your audience. Don’t be over alarmed – it does happen. This will manifest either through immediate criticism of a point you’re making, insincere agreement, silence or in- your-face defiance!
Don’t be swayed by any of the above. Be prepared. By being so, you’ll be able to tackle that resistance which may be caused by fear, misunderstanding, cynicism or a mixture of all three.
The element of fear may stem from the audience’s concern they’ll be unable to develop the skills and competencies. Our job is to instil the necessary knowledge and boost their confidence in order to overcome such fear. In some cases – such as in a more intimate training environment – one-on-one contact may be a solution. Today, the sharing of presentations or training notes via technology is so simple and can, itself, allay fears.
Cynicism may arise, as an audience can comprise different levels of experience, background and training. There may be questions arising about choice and availability of different brands or grades of products. 
In my personal experience, although approaching my mid-30s, I have been told in the past that I appear younger, and so a cynic in the audience might question age and, therefore, gravitas and industry experience. It is my job at the outset to ensure that the audience not only understands my qualifications for speaking to them, but to build, point by point, a confidence in my skills and abilities so they appreciate my right to stand before them for that particular session. This is achieved through clear communication and thorough preparation.

My top 10 tips on presenting: 

  •  Plan and prepare 
  •  Work out scope and format 
  •  Research your audience 
  •  Research your venue – especially for suitable equipment 
  •  Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse again 
  •  Ensure any live model is available and well briefed in advance 
  •  Be prepared for potential cynicism, fear or resistance 
  •  Use case studies or personal experience to boost audience engagement 
  •  Encourage participation 
  •  Be happy to answer questions


A multimedia approach

One very important point to be made is related to your content. I strive to personalise the topic at hand by example, whether by using personal experience or with case study illustration. Few of us in today’s aesthetics profession work exclusively among text books and the world of academia, so we will usually have a wealth of personal stories to share, or access to effective before and after images. Mixing the use of still photography with good video footage enriches any presentation. This multimedia approach helps to generate engaging content, and this kind of delivery improves the chances of the information and technique displays sticking in the audience’s memory.
Lastly, aim to be as relaxed as possible before your appearance. Get a good night’s sleep. Have a reasonable meal ahead of the engagement. Nerves are normal, and some say these nerves help keep the mind focused. Even after years of experience and appearances before audiences small and large, I’ll still experience nervousness. In my experience, deep breathing helps to calm nerves, along with the knowledge that you have prepared 100% for the session. All in all, these factors should add up to a well-delivered presentation and an effective and fluid sharing of knowledge

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