Preparing to Present

Top tips for breaking into the EMS speaking game

You are listening to a presenter at a conference and think, "I have a great idea for a presentation, and I can do it at least as well as this guy (or girl)!" Sound familiar? Well, there is a lot to know about presenting at an EMS conference, and this article is my best effort to let you know what types of conferences are out there, what they are looking for, how to develop your presentation proposals and other aspects of the EMS speaking game.

Coming Up with Ideas

One of the first points that should be addressed in an article about delivering presentations also happens to be a question I regularly hear asked of speakers: Where do you get your ideas? My ideas generally come from dealing with a situation I haven't dealt with before, being part of an initiative that is new to me and I think would be of interest to an EMS audience, watching a co-worker (this can be a supervisor, manager or other) become involved in something and how they handle it, or even when just doing nothing. Presentation ideas can focus on clinical aspects (advanced, basic or even intermediate life support-specific), supervisory techniques and/or management strategies (be prepared to back up your idea with some results seen at your EMS agency), detailing an educational initiative (again, show how this would work in real life or has worked), and the list goes on.

My advice to the new speaker is to present what you know. If you are a paramedic working in a rural area and have significant experience with long transport times, talk about that. If you are a manager and have implemented a new time-management strategy or an effective electronic patient documentation system, present on that, and so on. Similarly, it's always important to do your homework prior to developing and delivering a presentation. Aside from adequately researching your topic, see what has been presented before in this regard, and always document your sources and give proper credit when using a quote or someone else's work.

Submitting a Speaking Proposal

Various EMS conferences (local, regional, state and/or national level) seek enthusiastic speakers with new, previously undelivered topics for their conferences. If you want to speak, keep your eyes open in various list-serves, websites, etc, for conferences conducting a call for speakers. The calls for presentations usually go out several months before the actual conference. Your proposal should include, but not be limited to:


  • Presenter's name
  • Credentials (should include both EMS certifications and academic degrees, e.g. NREMT-P, BA)
  • Title and affiliation
  • Relevant contact information, including mailing address, work phone, home phone, cell and e-mail address
  • Conferences where you have presented in the past and what presentations you delivered (if applicable)
  • Conference you are scheduled to present at in the near future and what topics you will be covering (if applicable)
  • Learning objectives (at least 3 or 4) for your presentation
  • A brief, to-the-point description of each presentation, the audience they will appeal to (BLS, ALS, educators, management, general audience, etc.) and the presentation length.


You want people to read your presentation title and description and say, "I would love to see that," so take time to find an appropriate and eye-catching title. (One of my presentations that details the need for a harmonious relationship between EMS and public health authorities in pandemic planning and response is titled "Plagues are a Team Sport," a suggestion from a friend after I queried for ideas on Facebook.) Your lecture description should also tell potential attendees exactly what you will be presenting. It's not good to read a post-presentation evaluation and see that your audience felt this wasn't the presentation they read about and/or signed up for.

A last point in this regard is that many conferences have specific forms they want filled out if you want to be considered--so just do it. Don't just send a resume and some lecture titles. There are many speakers out there who will fill out the required paperwork correctly. Be one of them.

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