I have given multiple presentations and had training in prepared and impromptu speeches. I’ve had every “Ah,” “Um,” and “You know” counted. But that did not prevent me from struggling under the pressure of the elevator pitch. I recently suffered from podium amnesia when I stood up to speak in front of more than 200 colleagues for a couple of minutes.
This year, I took over the position of CE chairperson for my local AGD constituent. At the first CE event that I lead, I had to speak to the audience at the end of the day. Keep in mind that you can squeeze many words into a couple minutes. I wanted to promote different aspects of the AGD, including continuing education, professional growth, and advocacy. I wanted AGD members to consider becoming more active and non-member attendees to consider joining. I did not just want to report facts that anyone can read online. I meant to inspire and influence.
I carefully prepared my speech the night before, hoping that I would ignite the spark hidden within each dentist. I planned to have an inviting tone of voice and welcoming gestures. I also did not want to read from a paper; you can easily lose eye contact with your audience and become too monotonous. There is also this perception that if you read from a paper, you are not as proficient.
But, I think I was mistaken or too ambitious. It was Friday at 4 p.m., after a long day at the first CE event that I personally felt responsible for. When I went up to the stage, I seemed to suffer from instant amnesia. The good news is that nobody in the audience knew what I had originally planned to say next, so I just kept talking. I learned that trick when I was a member of Toastmasters International. The key is to stay calm and at least seem in full control. I talked slowly as I looked right and left to maintain eye contact with the audience and buy myself some time. I regrouped my thoughts and went on. I may have delivered a complete message, but it was not as powerful as I had planned. Although my other constituent leaders were very supportive and felt that I did great, I still gave myself only a fair grade.
My attempt to convey myself as well-suited and prepared for this role ended up with me almost losing control. I probably should have planned to keep it simple. Next time, I will at least walk to the podium with some headlines in big fonts to remind me of the important points I should cover. Maybe I’ll even use an iPad instead of a piece paper!
Have a great weekend.
Samer S. Alaassad, DDS