EMS conference presenters and the long wind-up

EMS conference presenters spend too much time winding up and building to their key points. The long wind-up is usually background or foundation information – pathophysiology, assessment, and treatment basics – that is rarely new information to most of the audience.

Here are four things to consider as you prepare to deliver a conference presentation, classroom lecture or other type of professional presentation.

1. Teach the 98%

Seth Godin wrote on Sept. 27:

When you find yourself overwriting, embracing redundancy and overwhelming people with fine print, you’re probably protecting yourself against the 2%, at the expense of everyone else. (And yes, it might be 10% or even 90%…. that’s okay).

When we hold back and dumb down, we are hurting the people who need to hear from us, often in a vain attempt to satisfy a few people who might never choose to actually listen.

Too many sessions I attend are aimed at the 2% of the attendees that may not know the Cincinnati Prehospital Stroke Scale or that naloxone is the generic name for Narcan or ambulances need to be driven with due regard. Instead of reviewing the basics for a few people, start with the premise that everyone (or maybe nearly everyone) will know the basics. Start teaching the 98% at the point just beyond what they already know.

2. Lead with your best material

A news headline grabs the reader’s interest. The first sentence (or the lead or the lede) tells the entire story in a sentence. The first and the second sentence have the best and most important points in the article. With each subsequent sentence the importance of the information diminishes.

As a presenter don’t spend the first three-quarters of the presentation building to your best material. By the time you get there your audience may be gone.

3. Ask for (or use) less time

Seventy-five or ninety minutes is an insanely long-time for a lecture-based conference presentation. If you have 15-minutes of great material ask for a quarter-hour session.

4. Use other teaching methods

Lecture is well-suited for hammering the 100% with the same information. But very few sessions are for everyone. Since you don’t have to re-teach the basics consider using discussion, simulation, scenarios, quizzes and audience polling to teach. But remember, just like any tool, these teaching tools require practice to achieve competence.

By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.