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What Acupuncture Can Do For You: A Simplified Guide To Building An Effective Presentation

By: Scott R. Smith L.Ac (Dipl. OM)

If your Chinese Medical School course in Business Management was anything like mine, then the main focuses were on clinic name, location and business card font. Sure, presentations and networking were mentioned, for a few seconds, then back to the business card design obsession. Or maybe your class spent hours discussing the pros and cons of placing an ad in the yellow pages. That was a big topic in my class; it went on and on and on

If you are a recent graduate or an established practitioner who knows the importance of public presentations, but you™re not sure how to go about it, then this article will help. I want you to be able to walk away today with a clear understanding of how to construct an effective presentation that will educate the community, new patients, and gain the referrals that will allow  your practice to grow. But don™t worry it is much easier than you think.

I must admit that at first, the idea of getting up in front of strangers regularly to talk about Chinese Medicine was very nerve racking for me. I was worried about what they might ask, not ask, care about and not care about. I now know that was the wrong mindset. Instead, I have learned to walk in with confidence and guide the talk, the questions and what information was important. To do this, I had to take charge so the talk was organized, efficient and easy enough to understand so that everyone (or I should say most™ since not everyone will get it) walked away with some basic, useful information.

I™ve heard too many stories of practitioners out of school for some 5 years, with only 5 patients a week. That™s not good. I often wonder, are they not out meeting people and networking? Some grads feel that because they have the education, then people will line right up once they hear a healer is in town. I had a fellow student tell me that patients will know to come to him because his energy was right. Yes, your energy does need to be right, but it often takes more than that. You can™t do too many presentations, can™t do too much networking. You have to get into your mind that it is essential for success. Yes there are periods where you won™t do it as much because business is good, but it should always be in the back of your mind.


OK let™s get on with how to put it together. All the following information is based on a talk the length of 15 to 20 minutes, using a PowerPoint slide presentation, with time for questions after. Leaving questions until the end is very important and this should be emphasized at the beginning of the talk. If people are allowed to interrupt with questions it can throw you off what you have prepared and go in a totally different direction. Remember, you should always guide it.

Since we haven™t grown up with Chinese Medicine in the US, many terms and concepts are completely foreign. Simplify, simplify, simplify. I preface each talk by saying that I™m not a historian to let them know that the history, dynasties and dates will not be talked about. This will usually keep them from asking as well. I then tell them that the talk is too short to go into how acupuncture works. A common phrase is Since I don™t have time to go into how acupuncture works, let™s just be in agreement that it does work and start the presentation from here. In emphasizing these points I™ve just avoided two detailed and time consuming topics allowing me to get to the important information. Honestly, most people don™t really care about history or how it works; they just want to know how it can make them feel better, so get good at that part. My friend, colleague and life coach gave the best advice anyone has given me. She said This is not school, it is information. Keep it simple. Every talk I™ve given has been based off on what she said and I would encourage you to take the same advice.

When I first started compiling slides I went overboard. I went into detail about qi and blood, the 5 elements, diagnosis, lots of charts etc. It was way too much. I still have all the slides, but I have cut them down. I currently have 118 slides to work with. That way, depending on the talk I give, I pull the appropriate slides out the night before, about 10 to 15 of them, string them together and I™m ready to go. You want the slide base to be full of case studies for certain conditions you treat well, slides outlining basic concepts in TCM, pictures showing cups, needles and whatever else you use. Of course an intro slide with the name and clinic and the days topic and a final slide with a nice picture and the words thank you™ are there as well.

The slides have the basic information but it is up to you to provide the detail. Don™t put all the information on the slide and read from it. That looks bad and the audience will lose interest. Make eye contact, try to be entertaining and have them focus their attention on you, not read details on the slide.

Your talk should have a basic theme. Let me say that again. Your talk should have a basic theme. All my talks have the same theme, all the time.

  1. Disease is the result of imbalance in the body (yin and yang).
  2. TCM treats the root and branch.
  3. We treat the whole person.
These 3 themes work for any talk, any case study and any diagnosis, all of the time. That way throughout the whole talk you can keep coming back to these three key concepts. If you repeat the basic information enough, they will remember it. Even if they get confused during the case study part, the three themes should keep their attention. Let™s examine each theme in more detail:

  1. This is a great time to talk about opposites. Heat, cold, interior, exterior, excess and deficiency. I let them know that for us, everything can be broken down into yin and yang and an imbalance between the two. There is no need to go into detailed theory or philosophies.
  2. This is a great time to talk about the difference between us and other modalities. Don™t insult any other medicine, just highlight our strength. Letting them know we treat the cause on not just the symptom better explains the idea of wellness as well as treatment length later on.
  3. Mention body, mind and spirit, the importance of emotions, and the detailed intake to find out about you™. I usually give an example to highlight this theme: Two people with the same complaint, leaving with two different diagnoses, two different treatment plans and two different formulas. Why? Because they are unique. Everyone is different, so why give the same formula?

Then the techniques slides. For those who think that acupuncture is just needles find this part informative. I have 2 slides with 3 techniques on each and a nice picture. The first slide has acupuncture, herbs, tui na. I provide the details verbally. The second slide has electro-stimulation, plum blossom and tui na. Again, I provide the details verbally. You could add moxa and also talk about celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow who had cup marks on her back at an awards show. Many people remember that and respond to her as a role model.

What do we have so far?
A resource of around 100 slides to draw from.

  • An introduction slide
  • 3 themes slides
  • Techniques slide showing needle, cups, tui na, electro-stimulation, moxa or whatever you choose.

Next you should provide some facts. I have a slide that has a quote from the World Health Organization (WHO) stating that over 40 conditions are recognized as being treated by acupuncture. It also states the reason is due to the lack of side effects our medicine offers. The slide also lists many conditions that we treat. It has a way of legitimizing what we do for people that need that.

Now we have:
  • Introduction slide
  • 3 Themes slides
  • Techniques slides
  • WHO slide
  • Conditions we treat slide

These slides can form the basis of almost any talk. Next I suggest that you personalize your presentation with some case studies. Here is what I did.

I gathered 5 really unique cases. I wanted to highlight the broad spectrum of conditions that come into the clinic. I want to get the audience past the idea that acupuncture is only used for treating pain. We do so much more. I chose dizziness, hot flashes, plantar fasciitis, mouth numbness and eczema (Since I had been taking pictures of the person I am treating for eczema, I was able to include before and after pictures in the presentation. This was especially powerful in the presentation because people could see the progress, not just take my word that he was better. So if you can add real pictures of something you treat, more power to you.). I start each slide with the statement Female, 55 years old™and provided key details about the case. I list tongue, pulse, diagnosis and treatment plan. I list any medication the patient is on, and the reason for the visit. I talk about progress and how many treatments were given.

At this point they come across technical terms such as LR Qi Stagnation. I always tell them not to worry about the details and go back to the main themes. So why list them? Because they should know that we go through a thorough history, then we diagnose and actually have a plan. I tell them when and why herbs were or were not an appropriate choice . But again, it is just information. Don™t try to impress them with any complicated words. They don™t care. Impress them with real case studies about people like them that were helped by acupuncture. Once they are in your clinic, then go further and teach terms and how we look at the body in more detail. But until then, leave it alone. Your main purpose is to educate, get referrals and build a strong patient base. Over 90% of your patients are referrals from other patients and your exposure to the community; not from the font you chose on your business card.

After the case studies, I have a slide showing something peaceful, like a mountain view with the words Thank You!™ Next I open the floor up for questions. When the question and answer session has ended, I remind them that I have more information for them to take home (business cards, brochures, new patient packets).

Let™s sum it up:

  • Introduction slide (name, clinic, focus of the talk)
  • 3 Themes slides (imbalance, root/branch, treat the whole person)
  • Techniques slide (needles, cupping, tui na etc.)
  • Recent medical facts slides (WHO quotes)
  • Conditions we treat slide (insomnia, migraines, common cold etc.)
  • 5 case studies slides (pick strong successful cases)
  • Thank you! Slide (with a picture of a mountain or something peaceful)
  • Question and answer session.

Total 15 -20 slides.
Total length 15-20 minutes.

A general guideline is to spend 30 seconds to 1 minute on each slide. Keep it moving and interesting.

I can™t stress enough the importance of a theme. If you don™t like mine, pick your own. Just be confident with the material. You should be able to do the whole presentation without the slides as well. Overall, if it takes more than 1 minute to explain, simplify it or leave it out. Good luck!
About the Author:

Scott R. Smith is a Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist (Dipl. OM, NCCAOM) practicing in Rapid City, SD. Visit the clinic website at or email Scott at [email protected]

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