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Helping speakers deliver the message

By Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH

As a practicing clinical hygienist, you attend continuing education courses to fulfill your state's requirements for annual CE credits. On more than one occasion, as you are sitting in a program listening to the presenter "read" her/his slides, your mind begins to wander and you seriously consider leaving, but know that you can't receive the credits you paid for if you leave too early. You may think "Why can't these speakers use the tools that technology has provided them to the fullest extent?" Slide after slide contains lines of text that you can read along with the presenter, with the material more suited to be in a handout than in the actual presentation.

Mary Roper Hurley, RDH, MA, felt the same way during many courses she attended. That feeling, compounded with the frustration of not having much material available to serve as aids when she was teaching radiology, led her to do something about it. Whether it is presenting information in front of a large audience or one-on-one with a patient in the consultation room, the skills needed to effectively communicate a message are the same. Engagement of the audience or patient is critical for the message to be received and acted upon. A clear message sent and a clear message received isn't effective unless the parties involved are engaged in the process. Overwhelming an audience with jargon or excess visual text that requires reading while simultaneously trying to listen makes the message unclear and disengages the audience.

Mary felt that if she was not engaged in the communication process of continuing education, what do patients feel during treatment discussions?

Mary's educational journey began while completing a masters' degree program in mass communications at California State University Fresno. Her emphasis was in the radio and television option where she learned the value of visuals complementing audio. She initially used that knowledge to create slide programs for teachers of dental radiology to use in their classrooms. At the time, she was a radiology instructor at Fones School of Dental Hygiene in Connecticut. From there, Mary entered the corporate arena where she worked as a writer, audio/visual producer, and most recently as a voice artist (narrator).

Along the way, she continued her study of the art of creating slides that are uncluttered and eye-catching while driving home a clear message. Mary uses memorable images to help convey concepts. For example, if she wanted to demonstrate the mandibular canal on a radiograph, she would highlight the canal on the slide and animate a kayaker paddling down it! Educating while making it fun and impressionable! Mary is also a trained voice artist and delivers professional quality audio recordings for e-learning and self-directed learning programs.

Mary does not present continuing education programs per se, but her goals in the education of others include:

  • Helping presenters use visuals in their presentations (live or on-line) that promote the message they want to convey
  • Assisting in professional quality voice overs (narrations) for presentations that are considered e-learning or self-directed learning

Many of her educational pursuits are centered on assisting professionals who are interested in presenting continuing education programs. Mary's goal is to help presenters use their media effectively.

With home and work life schedules fast paced, many states are accepting online continuing education credits to fulfill licensing requirements. Online education is convenient, timesaving, and cost effective for participants but requires presenters to develop additional skills to become more inviting and serve the learning process better. She believes that whether it is for the audience online or in person, or if the audience is the patient, making the message informative, interesting, and easily absorbed is the key to making the content memorable.

Mary is a dental hygiene graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her bachelor's degree at the University of Bridgeport, and her master's degree from California State University Fresno. She feels that clinicians need more time per patient, especially new patients, to educate properly and to incorporate technology into the patient experience. Education and technology will improve the health of both the patient and the practice.

She also sees the challenge of too many hygienists graduating from schools in the same geographic area as a detriment to the profession. Mary is proud of the fact that she has been successful in so many areas of dental hygiene and that her career has spanned many avenues. She describes herself as hardworking, friendly, caring, reliable, energetic, and fun. Beyond dental hygiene, Mary is passionate about her family, sports, animals, and nutrition.

With her experiences as a narrator, Mary suggests that anyone interested in pursing voice overs begin by googling "voice overs" and select some of the learning opportunities. Many reputable studios provide live and virtual training. These studios use accomplished voice artists as coaches who can provide one-on-one or group training sessions.

Incorporating visuals and narration that engages the audience is important in conveying any type of message. Mary encourages presenters to actively engage their audiences, whether the patient in the chair or the audience in a lecture or online program, in order to achieve maximum success.

For more information about Mary or her programs contact: mrh627rdh@gmail.com

"The Roots of Dental Fears" is this month's INeedCe course. Using ANMAR14 code, RDH readers will receive a 50% discount off the course. The regular tuition is $49, but is $24.50 after the discount.

Here's a description of "The Roots of Dental Fears":
The relationship between a dental professional and the patient is the heart of what keeps the practice thriving and patients returning. Most patients trust the staff members and establish a "dental home" in which they feel cared for and safe. For some people, a history of personal trauma, anxiety, or substance use can paralyze them during a dental appointment. The fear of a dental appointment or professional may be so overwhelming, a patient may behave in an exaggerated manner in the chair or avoid going to the dentist altogether. Awareness of potential stressors that provoke these behaviors, including the neurobiological responses to trauma, can help dental professionals provide optimum service with empathy and compassion.

ANN-MARIE C. DEPALMA, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries, as well as a continuous member of ADHA. She presents continuing education programs for dental team members on a variety of topics. Ann-Marie is collaborating with several authors on various books for dental hygiene and can be reached at amrdh@aol.com.

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