What did you say? A naked lady?

Some very familiar names share how they endured their worst day as a speaker, and, yes, they put on their pants the same way the rest of us mortals do.

Some very familiar names share how they endured their worst day as a speaker, and, yes, they put on their pants the same way the rest of us mortals do.

The comfort I find in writing down my thoughts rather than saying them aloud is directly related to a hearing impairment I've had since I was a child. I face enough difficulties in even one-on-one verbal exchanges. Julie Harris, an assistant editor with RDH from approximately 1995 to 1999, has what most people would describe as a "soft" voice. Since we worked together daily for almost five years, we talked about some important things like deadlines, authors, etc. Every time she said something to me (and I do mean every time), my response was, "What did you say?" She would patiently repeat what she had said, and I usually would understand on the second attempt to communicate.

When I hang it up in 15 years or so and reflect back on my career, I'll probably think of Julie. Besides being a fine editor, I'll always appreciate her patience in communicating with me. She endured enough what-did-you-says to earn points in somebody's spiritual ledger.

Without a doubt, Julie's voice is the softest I've encountered, and, most of the time, communication with others is limited only by the occasional "What did you say?" Regardless, hearing loss influences your confidence on how successful verbal communication will be — particularly when you're talking to several hundred people at the same time.

So it should be no secret that I have a great admiration (and perhaps even a little envy) of the "public speaker." Dental hygiene is fortunate. Many excellent lecturers help professionals stay informed about trends in oral health care. Many of them take extra efforts to be lively and entertaining with their presentations. Of course, they probably fear the grouchy participant at a seminar, who is awakened by the request to please fill out a speaker evaluation form.

No one likes to be thought of as being "boring."

My admiration of speakers means that, if they evade the distinction of being dull, I will place them on a pedestal. Here are these kind people who, for a reasonable tuition, will share with me everything they know about making me a better person. How can I dislike someone who does a good job at that? An informative, charismatic speaker can have a profound effect on your life, and, if you're like me, you start thinking of a speaker as being "super human."

But, as Anne Guignon points out in a very funny way in this issue, speakers are merely human. If you're a continuing education junkie, you will enjoy Anne's collection of anecdotes from the best and the brightest on the dental hygiene lecture circuit. She had dinner with a close friend and fellow hygienist, Sherry Burns, and they began swapping stories about life on the road. The more she encountered fellow speakers, the more stories she collected.

Some very familiar names share how they endured their worst day as a speaker, and, yes, they put on their pants the same way the rest of us mortals do. In fact, being a guy, I had to ask about that. A couple of the anecdotes deal with a garment that apparently is a real pain — pantyhose. As I read these stories, I guess I had the male reaction of, "What's the big deal? Just pull them up and keep talking." However, the female editors here laughed long and hard.

So I left those stories in and focused more on the stories a guy can relate to, such as a naked lady in a raincoat. You don't seriously think I'm going to give more details here, do you? The "naked lady" anecdote was published; go find it!

Mark Hartley can be contacted at markh@pennwell.com

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