Guidelines for MSTP Grand Rounds

2019-2020 Grand Rounds Faculty Committee:

David Stoltz, MD, PhD
Tom Rutkowski, PhD
Brian O'Neil, MD, PhD


The MSTP Grand Rounds Series was conceived as a vehicle to showcase not only the MSTP  program, but also to highlight the important biomedical research of University of Iowa investigators.  These ~50 minute presentations are divided into 2 integrated sections: the first is a clinical presentation describing an interesting case and the relevant diagnostic information (laboratory tests, biopsies and imaging studies). The second section is a scientific presentation of a focused avenue of research directly related to the case; it may be in the area of diagnosis, pathogenesis, or therapeutic intervention. 

Involvement of faculty acting as clinical and/or scientific mentors is strongly encouraged—they can help define suitable cases and topics, provide raw data and images, and preside over the question and answer session at the end of the presentation. The MSTP GR committee participates in the preparation of each MSTP Grand Rounds through a series of 3 sessions spanning roughly 4 weeks prior to each presentation.  The committee helps with the selection of a case and appropriately focused topics, the composition of the slides (both content and style/format), and fine-tuning your presentation skills. 

The following guidelines are designed to assist you in each phase of preparation, and will make the time spent with the GR committee more productive.  Most of you already possess and practice many of these skills—the goal is to have all of us on the same page at the outset.  While we encourage you to develop your own style, we also want to emphasize that the overall presentation must be integrated to deliver clear, concise, and accurate information in a highly professional manner.

Targeting the Audience

The typical audience for MSTP GR is quite diverse, including graduate students, research assistants, residents, fellows, faculty and UIowa MSTP recruits.  You should target your presentation to the level of a first-year medical student.  Thus, you should use medically appropriate terminology, but not overly or unnecessarily technical terms or jargon.  When illustrating an abnormal result or finding, you should also present the normal/healthy version to highlight the differences, whenever possible.  Follow HIPPA guidelines with regard to protection of patients’ medical and personal information, and you should treat their unique characteristics (which occasionally seem odd or humorous) with the greatest respect.

Selecting a Case and Topics

Begin the process of choosing a case not less than six weeks prior to your scheduled MSTP GR presentation.
Ideally, a patient you have interacted with during your clerkships (not mandatory).
Avoid topics covered in the past 2 years (
You should have at least 2 distinct cases in mind by the time you meet for session 1 with the GR committee. 
Selection of suitable topics from within your cases can be more challenging, and your mentors and the GR committee can be of assistance.  The key is to focus on a clearly defined topic that may be covered in reasonable depth, and that allows for a relevant, integrated scientific presentation (need for good data is paramount).

Selecting a Grand Rounds Title

The title should also be concise and clearly convey the basic topic of the presentation.     

"Targeted treatments for Familial Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis—Plugging Holes in the Immunologic Repertoire”
“Acute Glossophobia: You took the words right out of my mouth!”

You should choose the title by the end of session 1 (4 weeks PTP) to allow adequate time for advertisement; this means that cases and topics are also decided by the end of session 1.

Presentation Format Basics

Title Slide:

You should have “MSTP Grand Rounds Series” at the top; the exact title as advertised in large font, centered; names of the presenters and the date in smaller font, centered and below (see example, Fig. 1)
If you include names containing numbers or Greek letters, be sure to submit them accurately to avoid confusion (e.g., MIP-1a may be mistaken for “MIPIA” or worse, “MI-PIA”)

Slide Titles:

Shoot for one-liners in 40 point font; rarely, 2 lines may be needed (36 pt font)
Be consistent: try to have titles on all slides and use the same font and style; if you separate your title from other text and graphics with a line, do it for all of them (in both presentations)


Use Helvetica or Arial; these are easiest to read from the back of the room
For text – shoot for 20-point or higher
for labels in graphics – 14 pt or higher

Text slides:

Not counting the title, you should have no more than 5 lines of text per slide use bullets to visually break up your points (see Fig. 2)
Use concise, declarative phrases, not verbose sentences; avoid qualifiers such as “rather,” “slightly,” “extremely,” and non-standard jargon or abbreviations (e.g., “crit, or Hct” for “Hematocrit”; “CXR,” for “chest X-ray”)
Avoid slide after slide of text—especially during the clinical presentation; break up the text slides with graphics and images—they convey more information in the same space


Blue background with light-colored text (yellow or white) is easiest on the eyes, but a white background with dark text color (black or dark blue) also works well
Avoid using color indiscriminately and remember up to 10% of your male audience will have some degree of color vision impairment—especially red-green color blindness.
Be consistent with your color scheme; avoid bright or garish colors
Limit the number of graphics to no more than 2 per slide; otherwise, they will have to be shrunken to fit and thus may not be legible


Inclusion of high-quality graphic images dramatically enhances your presentation
If a figure cannot be pasted into your presentation effectively, re-draw it so that key information is legible; omit legends if they are confusing or illegible and unnecessary.
Always cite your ‘borrowed’ figures, even those from internet sources
When importing photographs, esp. photomicrographs, always use high-density images, since you will often need to enlarge them.  In general, TIFFs and GIFs work better than JPEGs
Do not complicate your graphics with extraneous detail or color (i.e., signal transduction diagrams with 23 arrows and 6 branch points); LESS IS MORE…


Avoid it at all costs unless critical for control of attention or to emphasize a subtle contrast or finding (e.g., an overlay). 
Misuse or overuse of animation will quickly annoy your audience and impair your ability to communicate effectively.


Don’t forget to acknowledge your mentor(s) and the MSTP on the final slide
(It doesn’t work well in this dual-presentation format to put this slide in at the beginning)

Grand Rounds Committee Meeting Sessions

Session 1 - (approximately) 4 weeks prior to presentation):

discuss the cases; select one case and define the topics
discuss selection of mentors
discuss approaches for integration of research section
decide on a unified theme/format for the presentation
review format guidelines for slides (if necessary)

Session 2 - (approiximately 10 days prior to presentation):

intense review and critique of the completed (or nearly-so) slide presentations
the presentations should be nearly final in your mind and already rehearsed
be prepared to endure detailed analysis and constructive criticism; many of your slides will be modified, some will be eliminated
choose a title so that it may be advertised in advance
bring along 5 copies of your slides in a printed handout, 3-6 slides on left side of page with room for notes on the right.
emphasis on integration of the presentations, communication of major themes, clarity of key points, clarity of graphics, final logical conclusions and closure of case

Session 3 - (approximately 2-3 days prior to presentation):

dress rehearsal without the dress; your presentations will be delivered without stopping or interruptions and will be timed
bring along 5 copies of your final presentation in the 3- or 6-slide per page format, final edits, additions, omissions, corrections, stylistic elements
your presentations should be tight and well rehearsed at this point, requiring little additional preparation

Presentation Pearls


Dress as a professional; ties and white coats preferred.


Project from the diaphragm and speak slowly, enunciating clearly but casually and with confidence. 
Allow for pauses at times when you wish important points to be considered; use inflection judiciously for emphasis


Most speakers prefer to stand behind the podium; if this is uncomfortable for you, you may stand in front, or just to the side podium, but not on the right side of the screen as the audience sees you, as this makes some in the audience uncomfortable. 
Do not sway or dance around; limit your body movements as much as possible—they are distracting
Limit your hand/arm gestures; use them for emphasis in directing attention only when necessary


Practice your pointing; exactly what will be pointed to and when?
If using a laser pointer, use it judiciously and with slow, precise movements—nothing is more annoying than a laser dot zig-zagging around the slide.  Turn it off and leave your hand at your
side (or resting on the podium) when you don’t need to point.

Let the audience know you are finished

Come to a point of closure (even if the case has not been solved)
Invite questions;


After questions, take your time with the acknowledgements and make sure names are correctly spelled and pronounced.
If you wish to include it, the MSTP Grant number is: 5 T32 GM007337
A copy of the Iowa MSTP graphic is available here:

Figure 1.  Example Title Slides

Figure 2.  Example of a Text Slide


Figure 3.  Example slide containing graphical data