It has been over four years since I left my position as Chief Medical Officer of a multi-hospital system in order to pursue full time my love of speaking and teaching. During this time I have had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the country. I have learned and experienced a great deal from hospitals and physicians in all 50 states.
These experiences have begged the question for me as to what is the role of an expert speaker. What is the real purpose of the presentation? What is expected from that interaction with the audience, and most importantly, how does this personally define my mission as an educator? How does this relate to my vision as an educator?
As I went through this exercise, talked with physicians and health care executives, it became apparent to me that my charge is to provide three levels of experience to my audience. These can be applied to any professional field, not just health care. This has now defined my role. This is now my vision for success as an educator. Let me define these three levels and how to achieve them:
Level I- Exceptional content- First of all, it is essential to provide factual, state of the art, and useful information to the audience. As a health care expert with many years of diverse experience, it is my goal to take the many volumes of complicated material and synthesize it down to a few critical points. I have always felt that if a person truly understands a topic, one can distill the essential concepts of that material down to a few simple, easily understandable bullets. Even Einstein was able to reduce the complicated field of atomic physics into a simple equation: E = mc2.
Most expert speakers do well in this area. In fact, almost all major presentations that I have heard from professional experts have excellent and well thought out content. It is the baseline of a good presentation…. but excellent content alone is not sufficient. It is only the first level for a true educator.
Level II- A delivery that instills motivation- To simply recite excellent content may or may not move an audience. One can give a presentation in perfect elegant english, but if the audience only speaks french, the entire meaning would be lost. What further differentiates excellent educators is the ability to take that content and DELIVER it to the audience in a way that is impactful. The presentation is more than reciting a speech; it must connect with the audience and catalyze the ability for the recipient to not only better understand the concepts, but make the issues meaningful, timely, and even personal. Key issues here include the ability to relate and interact with the audience, the appropriate use of humor, and put simply, the ability to deliver that content in a way that moves the audience to the next level. Terrific content that does not motivate and move the audience may have just as well be delivered through an e-mail. The role of a successful presentation is not only to educate, but also to motivate. The attendee will hopefully think about the issue differently and more productively due to the effort of the educator.
Level III- Challenge a Call to Action- But even motivation is not enough. Many of us have been to terrific presentations and have been very motivated by the speaker, even to the point of getting completely psyched up and ready to make some changes. But typically, we go back to the office, we are way behind from being away from the daily grind, and frankly all that we were motivated to do is now lost in the rat race of our daily lives. We surely felt motivated after that talk, but ultimately accomplished nothing tangible as a result of that interaction as we resumed our routine.
Thus, the final level is to instill a call to action from every participant. Content is the beginning, motivation is the personalization, but a talk is only truly effective if positive action resulted. I like to challenge the audience to implement three things when they get back to the office that they would not have done otherwise. I am a change agent. I like to take that teachable moment and allow it to become a catalyst for the participant to now palpably move their organization ahead.
That is the true goal of any presentation. That is the goal of the ideal educator. That is what I desire to do when I am called to give a speech.
The achievement of these three levels now define my mission as an educator. It is my responsibility to deliver not only excellent content, and deliver that content not only in a manner that moves and motivates, but also in a way that gives the audience a personal call to action when they get back to the office. I have now instilled a personal meaning to the interaction.
I know that it is impossible for every participant to be so moved. If, however, even one attendee made a productive change from my work, I am quite happy. With my speaking schedule that would be a couple individuals a week, maybe one hundred per year… for a number of years. That’s a lot of lives to influence. That is a job well done. That’s my personal mission.