Everybody is a star

Oct. 1, 2004
Many of the readers of this column have asked questions about presentation techniques, software and "tricks of the trade."

Paul Feuerstein, DMD

Many of the readers of this column have asked questions about presentation techniques, software and "tricks of the trade." Others want to know how to set up a simple presentation for local study clubs or society components. I hope to give some advice on the tech end; however, there are some basics in order here. Just as I recently stated that excessive technology doesn't make you a better dentist, presentation tricks won't save you from a dreadful lecture.

I have been to several courses where the presenter used so much "glitz" it was distracting from the content. There is a danger in using humorous sound clips or short videos that you might find funny, assuming they are so universally. In the early years of my lecturing, I was enamored by Star Wars. I interspersed sound clips like "Help me, Obiwan Kenobi" or "I have a bad feeling about this" throughout the presentation. Initially, this approach was cute, but then it wore thin. Audiences are present to gain information first, although a bit of showmanship and entertainment can be helpful.

The most commonly used presentation program is Microsoft PowerPoint. It now comes in all purchased versions of MS Office 2003, but is not included in the pre-installed Office Basic. As a stand-alone program, it retails for $229; $109 for an upgrade. Of course, there are deals to be found. If you are in an academic setting, further discounts exist. There are several programs and books available for self-training as well as commercial courses. Some of these are offered at dental meetings. It is always an option to go up to a presenter and ask to see how something is done. Most of the time, this brings a big grin and a very proud answer. People don't realize how much time can be spent tweaking just one slide, and it is nice to be appreciated.

Microsoft posts special new features and other enhancements on its Web site. There are also several third-party programs that add features. One of my favorites can be found at crystalgraphics.com. Be sure your laptop meets the graphical and memory requirements—some of these and other add-ons can slow your system considerably. In some instances, they will even crash your presentation at an inopportune moment.

If you are looking for sound or video clip sites such as wavcentral.com or a search for "funny movie downloads," you can get all the Homer Simpson quotes and international TV ads you want. Keep in mind that some of these are copyrighted and cannot be used in commercial presentations. Also, some of the smaller sites carry pop-ups and spyware, as well as X-rated offerings, so watch what you download.

Two wonderful teaching tools are Camtasia Studio (techsmith.com) and HyperCam (hyperionics.com), which allow you to create a video of your Windows desktop activity and view the steps necessary to use the technique on the computer. The former, although more robust, costs $299, while HyperCam is $40. I am still using Lotus ScreenCam, but it does not appear to have been upgraded to newer Windows versions.

Something that recently came up from Larry Barsh on dentaltown.com was ULTRA by seriousmagic.com. This amazing program allows you to make videos in your own space using a version of ChromaKey, which is the program used on TV that allows the sportscaster to appear as if his desk is in front of the crowd, or the meteorologist's weather maps to appear as if they're at his fingertips. Imagine showing a bonding technique while you are standing on a beach in Hawaii!

A little used feature, if the venue allows, is "widescreen." PowerPoint can be made to display at a 16:9 ratio, giving you more room on the same screen for multiple images, text and graphics. This is done in the "Page Setup" by using 8W, 4.5 H and landscape.

Despite setting up the PowerPoint presentations, keep in mind that you are still the focus of the presentation. This means that, above and beyond the content, you are the one on stage. A lecture is a performance, which requires rehearsal. I have found it most helpful to set up the presentation on a laptop in my study and stand in front of a group of stuffed animals and deliver the content. This is also critical for timing. You don't want to cut it too short, or find yourself with 40 slides and five minutes to go.

Please email me with your tips and tricks and perhaps we can expand this for a future article. In the meantime, I'll keep practicing my jokes.

Dr. Paul Feuerstein installed one of dentistry's first computers in 1978. For more than 20 years, he has taught courses on technology throughout the country. He is a mainstay at technology sessions, including annual appearances at the Yankee.Dental Congress, and he is an ADA Seminar series speaker. A general practitioner in North Billerica, Mass., since 1973, Dr. Feuerstein maintains a Web site (www.computersindentistry.com) and can be reached by email at [email protected].

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