How to give a talk you can remember, and your audience will understand

December 6, 2016


Marcy McCall MacBain, Research Fellow and Director of Online Education

Making a phenomenal speech takes years of practice, knowledge gathering, and a good bit of confidence – but preparing for, and delivering a satisfactory talk is relatively simple.

After facilitating the “Teaching Evidence-Based Medicine” course earlier this year, I realised offering what I call the Tree Talk paradigm might be helpful for some students, and future leaders in EBM.

So if improving your public speaking skills in 2017 is on your list of New Years Resolutions, this blog’s for you.

Why a Tree Talk Paradigm?

Using a tree as a metaphor is something I crafted to help set a framework for writing and remembering a speech. I was preparing for several presentations in July of this year while in Vancouver (surrounded by old-growth forest), which I think is how nature inspired the idea!

I shared it with a colleague in the business of making presentations, and she loved it. I shared it with my 11 year-old daughter last week, and even she was impressed enough to use it for a school project. The magic is how this paradigm works to organise talking points in a logical way, while encouraging a natural arc in our story.

This structure helps us to remember our message on the big day, but also works to develop a talk that will please the audience to whom we are trying to teach or inspire.

Thinking in Trees and Threes

The Tree Talk Paradigm lays out components of your talk as follows:

  • Establish your roots (research, preparation, and hook)
  • Identify your key message (the trunk)
  • Define your three branches (main ideas and their supporting points)
  • Know your audience (the sunshine)
The Tree Talk Paradigm


The Tree Sketch

Here’s an example of one my tree sketches. I like to attach timings, brief content outlines, and then will rework based upon changing ideas or distilling my thoughts as they come.


Practice, Practice, Practice

You are welcome to use the Tree Talk Paradigm to help you prepare, and then, like anything else, only practice (and maybe a few dress rehearsals) will be sure to improve your public speaking.

For resources beyond the famous TED Talk series, I recommend visiting websites of Janice Tomich and The Gravitas Method.

Dr Marcy McCall MacBain collaborates with the Centre for Evidence-based Medicine and the Department of Primary Care Health Sciences from her office in Geneva, Switzerland. Pursuant to improving health care education and the large-scale uptake of evidence-based practices in health care, Marcy is working to develop online digital platforms for evidence-based skills training.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Checkbox GDPR is required


I agree