FORT WORTH – Many medical students and physicians have ideas about innovative ways to improve care for patients. However, how to communicate that idea to spark interest in patients, potential investors in health care or other medical education stakeholders requires finesse.
You have to be fully present, according to Sheila Scott, MBA, a contract and budget analyst at TCU School of Medicine.
“A lot of people don’t understand that it’s not just your mind that you bring to a pitch conversation but it is also your body language,” Scott said. “When you’re fully present, you can communicate and the person that’s receiving the message will be able to trust you more.”
Scott, who is also a member of Toastmasters International which is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs, presented “The Pitch” to medical students who are a part of the TCU School of Medicine Brand Ambassadors program.
The presentation was designed to help medical students learn persuasive speaking techniques and how to communicate concisely to their audience.
“She really walked us through how to put together a really solid pitch,” said Mei Mei Edwards, a third-year medical student at TCU School of Medicine. “I have away rotations coming up at hospitals for four weeks to kind of audition for future residency spots working with people I have never met before. In order to make it through all this, I will need a strong pitch to really make myself memorable.”
Scott began the presentation explaining the importance of making a connection using persuasive speech. For example, during an encounter with a patient, she expressed the importance of using terminology that patients can understand to make a better connection.
“Addressing them by their name. Knowing a little bit of their history,” Scott said. “Start the persuasive speech with saying how can I serve you today? As a patient, when my doctor did that, I was willing to hear whatever they had to say.”
Understanding your audience whether it is one person or a room of individuals begins with storytelling, according to Scott. She pushed the medical students to link their ideas or medical information to things their audience can relate too.
“Using stories from the outside world can help you better illustrate your pitch to your audience,” Scott said.
During the presentation, the medical students were asked to give a two-minute pitch based on a topic randomly selected by their peers.
Alejandra Gutierrez, a first-year medical student at the School of Medicine, was assigned to be a physician giving bad news to a patient about their health condition. This mock situation was a first for Gutierrez.
“It was a little nerve wracking at first,” Gutierrez said. “It was eye opening because I am going to have to learn to do that as a student and also as a future provider.”
As her classmates listened and observed, Gutierrez began to pull from her own personal experiences to help ease her patient. She empathized with them as she gave the details of the health condition.
“This technique of trying to relate to your audience is something that can be useful as I move into more clinical encounters,” Gutierrez said. “Telling a story is a really good thing I’m going to use in my future conversations.”
Each student was asked to write down feedback on each impromptu pitch and share it with each other. This was an exercise to help the students practice thinking quickly, but also a practice of learning how to keep their thoughts concise.
“This method is called ‘tabletop’ in Toastmasters lingo,” Scott said.
Edwards was asked to give a short pitch to news reporter about the School of Medicine Brand Ambassadors program. She felt the nervousness of being put on the spot, but was pleasantly surprised by the feedback she received from her classmates.
“It was helpful to get positive feedback to know I’m on the right path and when there was constructive feedback it was something that was actionable,” Edwards said.
Making a perfect pitch is about being fully present, presenting your message clearly and concisely and giving your audience a reason to trust you, Scott added.
“It makes a difference in whether someone trusts you with their life in this instance for the medical students,” Scott said. “I hope they recognize the importance of it with their patients.”