All students shared one same concern: their fear of public speaking. Submitting a communication before an audience frequently becomes a nightmare that, sooner or later, any scientist must face. However, graduate training in biomedical areas not always provides students with the possibility of developing such an essential facet of their professional development.
Many aspects must be considered when speaking in public, ranging from the size and color of the letters in a slide or transparency to gestures, looks or bodily expression. The first rule, however, is self-confidence, particularly if severe psychological erosion is involved when facing an audience. A good part of the training seminars initiated this year by the Esteve Foundation aims precisely at gaining confidence and overcoming nervousness. The other main part advises on how to best build and perform a good oral presentation: how to select information, fit the audience, choose audiovisual support, and many other elements that are key in any submission.
Two professional actors, Aina Clotet and Álex Mañas, undertook to loosen up the course participants and provide them with hints on vocal and bodily expression. They did so by means of group exercises requiring high doses of spontaneity and ease, with the purpose of improving aspects like stance or hand gestures, voice rhythms and intonations, looks, naturalness, etc. Performed in two seminar sessions, these exercises proved effective: the students evolved from initial stiffness and nervousness to a more relaxed, skillful knowledge of communication aspects.
On their part, family physician Elena Muñoz and pharmacology professor Maria Isabel Martín provided key points to be considered when giving a biomedical presentation. Both of them have wide experience in this field, the former as a member of the Communication and Health group of the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine (SEMFYC), the latter after many years preparing her students for the always difficult presentation of their Ph.D. theses. This has led Muñoz and Martín to closely know the tools required for a successful oral presentation, such as audiovisual support (preparation of slides, graphs, tables, effects, etc.) or techniques to face drawbacks such as having many data and little time –or vice versa.
The complementarity of the sessions conducted by different teachers evidenced that previous preparation is key to a good oral presentation. Regardless of the nervousness issue, any audience expects the submitter to be proficient in the subject and all external elements to be carefully arranged. Concerning self-regulation of mood, another lesson learnt is that winning the battle starts with the acquisition of self-confidence, which is doubtlessly improved by experience and will power.