When it comes to presenting at an FDA Advisory Committee (ADCOM) meeting, there is no substitute for great data and clear messaging. But that isn’t enough. In addition to “what” you say, “how” you say it is important. The panel needs to believe that YOU believe what you’re saying.
Here’s our five tips to help you deliver a highly effective ADCOM presentation.
- Hone your presentation skills. One challenge in presenting to an FDA ADCOM is that two-thirds of your target audience has their back to you. They may be focused on the slides in a handout or on a floor monitor in front of them. But presentation skills still matter – like these:
- Approach the lectern, pause for a second or two before beginning, make eye contact with those facing you, and establish your presence.
- Be “in the moment,” delivering the meaning behind each word.
- Take a step back so that you’re standing up straight. Don’t grip the lectern or use it as a support.
- Gesture when you speak, just as you normally would in conversation. It adds emphasis to your words and makes you sound more conversational.
- When you finish a thought, look up and see if you can connect with someone. It exhibits your confidence and provides a moment for that thought to be absorbed.
- Speak with conviction, establishing your belief in what you’re saying. Vary the level of emphasis in your voice to “flag” the most important takeaway messages.
- Pause where there would be a comma or new paragraph in writing; they are there for a reason.
- Breathe. If you forget to breathe, your audience will hear you gasping for air through the microphone.
- Don’t sway or rock because your voice will start going in and out over the microphone, and you will convey nervousness.
- Stay focused on your script and connection to your audience. Don’t try to point out anything on the slides as this will just lead to confusion.
- Bring the slides to life. Your whole presentation is a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Each of your slides should be looked upon in the same way. It should never seem like you are just narrating a slide show, but rather that each slide is a vital chapter in that story. Pause for a moment when each slide comes up so the audience can orient themselves to the headline and subject. When you have information that may be hard to digest, give the audience time to do so. It is your guidance that helps the panel understand, interpret, and draw appropriate conclusions from the data.
- Practice out loud. Silently reading through your presentation will not capture the rhythm and flow or whether the data and key points are being clearly communicated. Your presentation has been written for the ear. Saying it out loud gives you the opportunity to hear how it will sound to your audience. Every time you practice out loud, you incrementally improve what you say and how you say it until you have it just right.
- Test your presentation. This is a high-stakes presentation and you need critical feedback to assure you are clear, concise, and convincing. Accept criticism and recognize its value. We often get too close to the data and don’t realize how they appear to an outsider. Feedback from internal and external experts ensures that you’re confident in what you are saying and how it will be received. Outside experts, in particular, offer perspectives from the types of people you will be presenting to at the actual panel. Testing your presentation provides insight into the quality of the content as well as your ability to make it clear and credible.
- Go in strong. Every presenter needs to believe in themselves and exhibit confidence when presenting. Lack of confidence may lead the panel to question the strength of the data. So remember your tips, practice often, and test your presentation. On the day of the panel, you will not be over practiced or over confident – you will be prepared.