Building a Listener-Focused Presentation

As a medical science liaison, you must frequently present technical data to opinion leaders. Typically, this is in response to a question they have or because you are sharing newly published data. You also may be giving a group presentation at a conference or meeting. So how do you present dry technical data or information in a way that captures opinion leaders’ attention? One way is simply to change your mindset! In The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey writes that when listening to another person, you need to listen to understand rather than listening to reply. That same advice works when presenting. Your mindset shouldn’t be on what you want to tell the opinion leader, but rather on what he or she needs to hear and understand. It’s a subtle but important difference.

Three Qualities of a Listener-Centered Presentation

Listener-centered presentations:

  • Are dialogues rather than one-way conversations. You need to incorporate questions into a good presentation to an opinion leader. Strategically placing good questions throughout the presentation creates engagement. Good engagement allows the opinion leader to share insights, ask clarifying questions and, perhaps most important, share his or her mindset.
  • Focus on a few key points. It’s better to present a few points well and create good engagement than to present a lot of points poorly. A “data dump” on an opinion leader doesn’t help inform him or her and often leads to confusion. A better approach is to make 2 or 3 key points and then generate discussion around them by asking a few questions.
  • Are supported with visual aids. Relaying complex data or information to an opinion leader is challenging, especially if you have limited time. A good supporting visual aid such as study data or a reprint that reinforces your key point can significantly help transfer that knowledge. The adage a “picture is worth a thousand words” is very true.

Creating a Listener-Centered Presentation

So the question becomes: How does one create a listener-centered presentation? How do you develop a mindset in which the listener is the focus of the presentation? To make your presentation more listener centric:

1. Create a customized presentation plan

Every opinion leader is different, so a good presentation focuses on what the person you are presenting to specifically needs to hear. You must customize each presentation for the specific listener. If you are speaking to a large audience, consider a common need the group members might have. Once you have a good understanding of your listeners, carefully plan what you are going to say to create engagement with them and then give them the information they need.

2. Ask strategically placed questions

Throughout your presentation, place good questions that address something meaningful. Leading or trivial questions will cause listeners to tune out. But a good question that elicits their opinion or asks them to share their perspective can help in the transfer of knowledge. It also builds your credibility.

3. Summarize the key learnings from the presentation

At the end of your presentation, provide a summary of the key points. It is important to summarize what the listener found important and useful rather than what you wanted to tell the person. If you asked good questions throughout the presentation, then you should have uncovered a few key points the listener found useful or interesting. These will form the foundation of your summary.


Developing a listener-centered mindset is critical to delivering a good presentation. Creating a dialogue that focuses on a few points that are important to the listener generates good knowledge transfer and builds your credibility as a valued partner. This mindset comes from creating a customized presentation with a few good, strategically placed questions that will encourage opinion leaders to engage in conversation. Then summarize the key learnings at the end. This approach will transform a boring one-way conversation into an interactive conversation that ultimately helps the opinion leader in the treatment of patients.

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