I got a chance to do a presentation skills program with a group of 16 doctors recently. They were actually specialists, including cardiologists, and the focus would be on facilitation skills--more on that below. It's always interesting teaching a group with this much education and power. Doctors, by their nature and titles, are accustomed to being praised and highly respected. Now they're sitting around a big table, raising their hands to ask questions and preparing to practice openings and closings, some of them nervously.
I'd heard the horror stories about their egos, and expected a hard time. One trainer told me one had a cell phone that was constantly going off. When she asked him about it, he challenged her--"I"m a doctor, and doctors are always on call." Another time, she said a doctor had almost run her out of the room, challenging her:"Why don't we just do a poll now, and see how everyone thinks you're doing?"
Ok, this sounds like fun.
But it turned out to go pretty smoothly.
The session started a little rough--I could almost see some of them looking at their watches, wondering if it was going to be worth their time. But I found that as soon as I could get them up and practicing, and interacting, their attitude improved. They seemed to enjoy practicing--and sparring--with each other (one practice has different doctors taking roles of problem-causing audience members--the challenger, the procrastinator, etc.)
As the session went on, I also tried to delve into their issues--look at the world from their eyes.
The focus of these trainings is to teach them "facilitation skills," meaning you're always involving others to join in and provide interaction (vs the single presenter "didactic" model). This can include taking an issue and like a baton or football, passing it off to another audience member and getting their feedback.
I found this approach to be refreshing. When a doctor with a sort of edge did challenge me on an issue, I turned it around and used it as a lesson. "Dr. Smith just asked a challenging question, and this is what you'll face at your evening presentations. I'll tell you what i think in a minute, but first let's get some feedback--Dr. Robert, what would be a good way to handle this?" And so on..
I ended the session with a suggestion that doctors can and should be out speaking more, in the community, in the churches, schools, and maybe regional and even national levels. Society needs more true leaders speaking out. With all that knowledge, I said, half jokingly, why keep it bottled up?
I don't expect them all to rush out and become Tony Robbins after out mini-session, but it's a start.