Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Main Ingredient

Posted by Akin at Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Pharmacy Student Seminar course is a requirement of all fourth-year PharmD students. Each of us is assigned a topic related to pharmacy to present to our P-4 classmates. Alternately, we can choose to talk about our research project (the PharmD investigations project). A seminar adviser is assigned to each of us to provide guidance at every step of the way.The Seminar is an opportunity to help us build our communication skills and confidence. We learn how to thoroughly gather information from the literature and then assemble this information into a professional looking, 50-minute PowerPoint presentation. This is a skill many, if not all, of us will need in the future.

Out of my class, I’ve noticed that relatively few of us have a natural ability to speak in front of a large audience with utter fearlessness. In fact, many of us are deathly afraid of public speaking. I think I am somewhere in the middle-to-comfortable range of the spectrum. It’s just the five minutes right before, and the first five minutes into, any presentation that tend to be the most nerve-racking for me. The fact that I’ve known my fellow classmates for over three years doesn’t make it any easier.

The situation was no different at 1:05 p.m.November 6, approximately five minutes before starting my PharmD project presentation. My adviser, Dr. Barry Bleske, must have noticed my anxiety because he took this opportunity to tease me. After the course coordinator, Dr. Sally Guthrie, told me: “You know more about this topic than anyone in the crowd, so don’t be worried;" Dr. Bleske added: "Actually there are at least seven more students [my PharmD project partners] in the crowd who know just as much as you do!" (The implication: So you'd better be good.)

Dr. Bleske had been emphasizing simplicity during our practice sessions and wanted to make sure I had overcome my natural tendency to be verbose. This was in the back of my mind throughout the presentation and when I first began: “Welcome to my presentation, I will be talking about my senior project… uhhhh, [I mean] my PharmD project.” Shoot, I thought to myself, I already messed up. But I continued without too many other blunders and 50 minutes came and went before I knew it.

Overall, I think I was successful in communicating the most important points to the audience, sticking to the main topic, if you will. The presentation was also video recorded so I was able to see my mannerisms -- such as my propensity to sway back and forth as I talk. I will certainly improve on my weaknesses and strengths and I’ll have a chance to do this most immediately at the ASHP Clinical Midyear Meeting where five of us will be presenting the PharmD project in the form of a poster presentation. I think this will go smoothly as long as I have someone else talk for the first five minutes!

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