Presenting in front of a crowd is not an easy task but might be an important step in your nursing career. By using general guidelines and honing your presentation skills, oncology nurses can become stronger speakers, opening the door to new opportunities for advancement. 

Presenting Clinical Information

Public speaking about clinical information, including the following, can help others learn from your experience or give you ideas to find new ways to manage clinical work:

• Clinical manifestations of disease

• Mechanism of action of treatment

• Adverse events (AEs) related to treatment

• Management of clinical signs/symptoms

• Patient education

• Case studies

Keep in mind some general guidelines for presenting clinical information, said Teresa Knoop, MSN, RN, AOCN®, assistant director, clinical operations of the clinical trials shared resource at the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, TN:

• Prepare several hours for each hour of presentation.

• Define your purpose and organize your thoughts.

• Practice as much as you can.

• Learn from your mistakes.

If you forget a drug in your presentation or pronounce it wrong, “just admit it! Say ‘well, that left me entirely! Let’s move on,’” Knoop said.

Before you present officially, make sure you know your audience, so you are presenting the appropriate information in the most effective way possible, Knoop said.

Developing Your Presentation

Your presentation will generally have three components: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The introduction must be powerful and capture the attention of the audience: tell them what you are going to present and convey your purpose.

In the body, you’ll present the details of the overview you offered in your introduction. When you conclude, you will summarize what you told them and what message you want them to take away.

Microsoft PowerPoint can be helpful in making your presentation interesting to look at so “try to become a PowerPoint guru,” Knoop said. However, less is more: don’t make your presentation too busy because it can distract your audience from absorbing the information. When presenting clinical information, strategies include:

• Convey a professional image.

• Disclose any conflicts.

• Use slides to your advantage.

• Reference all material, even when taken from areas of public domain.

• Know your audience.

• Relate to your audience.

• Use analogies.

• Create mental images to help people remember.

• Use stories and real-life experiences.

• Use humor.

• Ask for audience stories or experiences.

“Patient stories mean so much,” Knoop said. “When you can share a story, people will remember that.”

Try to include a question-and-answer session when you can after your presentation; it’s a great way to start a dialogue in the audience. If a question seems hostile, briefly respond and offer to discuss after the presentation and bring the audience back to the key points.

“If you don’t know the answer [to someone’s question], don’t make it up,” Knoop said. “Someone will call you out on it.”

Presenting Specific Information

The number-one rule of presenting: don’t just read the slides.

“[The audience wants] to say, ‘You can move on, because I can read that!’” Knoop said. Instead, share something that makes the audience relate to what you’re discussing.

For AEs, report the actual AEs; don’t just throw out percentages. And be clear on what the duties are for nurse management of signs, symptoms, and AEs (e.g., monitoring fatigue levels, maintaining glucose and lipid control, skin assessment/rash management).

When discussing information for patients and caregivers, be clear on specific AEs or information that both sides need to know, Knoop said.

Presenting case studies can be overwhelming because they contain many data points, so be concise and clear when you present. Do not assume that your audience knows all of the abbreviations, and explain any unfamiliar concepts or words.

Most importantly, be enthusiastic and engaging. “If you’re passionate, and you’re passionate about your presentation, you will be dynamic,” Knoop said. “The more you do it, the more comfortable you will be.”