Practice, practice, practice

“Practice is the best of all instructors”
Publilius Syrus (Roman author, 1st century B.C.)

Back from the AAPM scientific meeting, and kudos’ to the organizers for an excellent meeting. Over the past few years, they have set-up a “Best in” category regrouping the 5 highest scored abstracts in each 3 broad categories of the meeting. Not only do they get oral presentations but they also deserved a special poster viewing session. An extremely interesting and exciting session!

Now the main thrust of this blog post, the revelation of the short or SNAP oral category. These are like speed dating for scientific presentations: each presenter gets exactly 5 minutes “to pitch” their results. Moderators (I was for one of these sessions) are advised to be brutal with the respect of time… Retrospectively, I have to admit that I was extremely impressed, and here is why.

In 5 minutes talk, you cannot throw-in half-prepared slides and expect the audience to follow you; there is simply no room (time!), to wiggle yourself out of fully packed slides which takes minutes to walk the audience through, to decode them. Everything, figures, tables and texts must be to the point. There is little place for extras in your visual support, everything must have a function, which is to get your message across.

In both of the sessions I went, most of the speakers, the vast majority in fact(!), performed extremely well. Furthermore, it was obvious that they spent a significant amount of time preparing their visual supports (slides) but more importantly, they all made it, 100% of them, in their 5 minutes time slots!

I also like the rhythm that this pace imposed on the sessions. Not saying that all sessions should be SNAP oral, but all can learn from attending such as session.

These individuals had one extra key ingredients that many of their peers in sessions with 8, 15 or 20 minutes time slots did not. Because they were told that these would be fast paced sessions with strictly enforced time, it was obvious that these presenters rehearsed, and rehearsed and rehearsed until it was right on.

Well, my hat off to all of the presenters.

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