Continuing education seminars are a great way to learn. Behind the stage, however, there may be a glitch or two. Here are some tales from the other side of the podium.
by Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH
Have you ever pondered what it takes to present a wonderful continuing education program? Probably not, unless you have been involved in meeting planning or have tried presenting a program. It appears glamorous and fun ... all of those big bucks and all of those trips to fabulous locations. However, lecturing involves a lot more than merely hopping on a plane, donning your gorgeous presentation suit, and dropping a tray of slides on top of a carousel projector. The inflexible or faint-hearted speaker may have to struggle to survive the world on the other side of the podium. Speaking engagements can be a test of survival.
A fashion trendsetter meets everyone's choice for a teammate on Survivor
So let's start with a pop quiz. Imagine this scenario. Sherry Burns, RDH, MS, is flying back after teaching for several weeks in Japan. Burns arrives in Hawaii completely jet-lagged and is scheduled to teach a course first thing the next morning. Exhausted, she falls into a deep sleep and is a little bit disoriented when she awakens. She quickly goes to the bathroom to get ready for her class, slamming the sliding pocket door to the bathroom shut.
Sherry jumps out of the shower and guess what? The sliding door has somehow become locked! No amount of persuasion will budge the door. She is locked in the bathroom on the 25th floor of a Honolulu hotel. No phone. No nothing. Here is what our survivor has: one toilet, one towel, one bathtub/shower combo, and one towel rack.
What would you do? Start crying? Beat on the walls or the door? Scream at the top of your lungs? Flood the bathroom?
My informal poll on this very question was posed to everyone from engineers, to my brilliant sister, an architect, as well as to other speakers. The results? No one has ever guessed how Sherry solved her dilemma, but Kim Herremans wants Sherry on her team for the Survivor show! You'll find the answer to the pop quiz later in the article.
Does she cut the grass too?
Taking a Hike
Probably the one dental hygiene speaker with the most courses under her belt is Esther Wilkins, RDH, DMD. Somehow, her hotel accommodations for one program were some distance away from the place where the program was being presented. No one had made arrangements to get her there.
While taking the conventional sidewalk route, she decided to save some time and go as the crow flies, proceeding to hike through a field of weeds. With dusty shoes and a few blades of grass and burrs in them, Wilkins presented one of her legendary programs. Personally, I'd love to have a photo of her sprightly figure parting the waves of grass, determined to reach her goal.
Pardon Me, Officer
On the way to a presentation in Iowa, Janis Keating, RDH, MS, got lost in a maze of residential homes. A precious 30 minutes of travel time was lost during the scenic detour. Keating begged for mercy when one of "Iowa's finest" pulled her over for speeding, but no amount of explanation convinced the deputy to be merciful.
And This Too Will Pass
Now jump in the passenger seat with our survivor, Sherry Burns. She loves sightseeing and decided to take the scenic route one spring afternoon for the three-hour drive from her home in Kansas City to Wichita, Kan. As she enjoyed the rural countryside, Sherry suddenly heard a weather report on the radio. "Warning! Severe weather alert! Persons residing in Polk and Marion counties need to seek immediate shelter. Tornado alert!" As she listened, she spotted a road sign that read: "Leaving Marion County. Now entering Polk County."
The late afternoon sky had taken on the hue of tornado alley — a sickly, ominous gray-green canvas. Normally cool as a cucumber, Sherry began to get nervous. Years of public service announcements had told her to get out of her car and lay in a ditch, but she was driving through the flatlands of Kansas where ditches were scarce as hen's teeth.
Finally, Sherry drove into a small town and took refuge in a restaurant. Burns and the other patrons watched the storm play out several miles away. She learned later that she had witnessed the most dangerous type of tornado, a class five, which lacks the classic funnel shape.
Stay tuned. Sherry had not arrived in Wichita yet! As Sherry entered the small town of McPherson, the weather turned nasty again. She decided to wait the storm out at a combination pizza parlor/bowling alley. The building, however, lacked a basement — a fundamental necessity in tornado alley. As the patrons vacated the establishment, Sherry decided to hide under a big pool table. A young couple grabbed her by the arm, insisting that she take shelter in their basement with their five children and the babysitter for the duration of the storm. Once the weather calmed down, Sherry got back in her car and headed on to Wichita.
Rockin' and Rollin' All Night Long
Jan Haun, RDH, BS, worked all day in clinical practice. After work, she headed to the airport for a series of red-eye flights from Kansas City to Boston. The drive to the airport was during a torrential rainstorm, but that was child's play compared to the initial flight to Chicago. Rain pelted the plane. Thunder pounded the eardrums. Lightning flashed all around, and the plane kept losing altitude. Everyone on the flight had an aching belly from the their bodies being forced against the restraining seat belts. Luckily, the totally nauseated Haun was able to catch her connecting flight. Jan arrived in Boston exhausted. She collected her luggage and nearly burst into tears when she picked up her garment bag. Water poured from the bottom of the bag that held her attire for the course.
Thoroughly frustrated, Jan jumped into a cab and said, "Please take me to the Marriott." At that time, Boston had two Marriott Hotels, uptown and downtown. This seminar happened during the days before cell phones, so the smart cabbie phoned his dispatcher and found out which hotel Jan was registered in. When Jan arrived at her hotel, with less than seven hours before her program, she checked her garment bag. The dry cleaning bag inside saved her dress, but her dyed-to-match sapphire blue leather pumps were ruined. So Jan wore her athletic shoes with her dress ... long before this was considered fashionable. Should we dub her a fashion trendsetter?
It's small, but it flies
Leaving on a Jet Plane
Sometimes it is just not worth it to leave home. Dianne Glasscoe, RDH, arrived 90 minutes early at the Greensboro, N.C., airport for a confirmed 12:45 flight to Texas. The ticket agent greeted her by saying, "Didn't anyone call you? Your flight was changed, and it left 45 minutes ago!" Dianne stared in disbelief as the agent calmly told her, "No problem, we'll get you to Lubbock, no problem." With these famous last words still resonating in her ear, Dianne boarded a flight to Atlanta, where she changed gates three times during her five-hour layover in order to get a plane that was sky worthy enough to make the flight to Dallas. By the time Dianne landed in Dallas, she had missed her connecting flight, and her business dinner in Lubbock was history.
There were no more flights to Lubbock that night. The airport agent advised Dianne that flights were available early the next morning, but Dianne could not chance that since her seminar was scheduled for 8 a.m. By this point, Dianne had become the unofficial spokesperson for five other passengers also trying to get to Lubbock. Perseverance prevailed, and, eventually, the six unhappy travelers boarded a tiny jet for one of the roughest rides in history. As soon as they plopped down on the West Texas runway, Dianne retrieved her luggage and arrived at the hotel at 2:30 a.m. With only three hours of sleep, Dianne woke up determined to get ready for an all-day seminar.
Here are her exact recollections of that day: "Do you think my attendees had any inkling of my disastrous arrival or lack of sleep? Not a chance! I put my game face on and gave them a dynamite program. In fact, one of my attendees wrote on her evaluation, "This was the best CE course I have ever attended!' "
Dressing for Success
Kim Herremans RDH, MS, was excited about presenting a course in Williamsburg, Va., but knew the long flight from San Antonio would be much more comfortable for her if she dressed casually. She barely caught the connecting flight in Pennsylvania and finally arrived in Richmond at 1 a.m., and she still had the 90-minute drive to Williamsburg ahead of her.
It turned out that, while Kim had made it, her suitcase was lost in a Pennsylvania snowstorm. Clad in her traveling clothes — jeans and a casual plaid shirt — Kim presented the morning portion of her seminar to a room packed full of well-dressed dentists and hygienists.
Right before lunch, Kim learned her suitcase had arrived. She decided to skip the luncheon, opting instead for a shower and an opportunity to change into her speaking attire. When she returned for the afternoon session, Kim was greeted with a murmur of "Oh, your luggage came," and the whole room immediately broke into applause while she turned three shades of red.
Hurricane Ann Spotted Traveling West
A decade ago, Ann Eschauner Spolarich, RDH, PhD, was scheduled to present a seminar in North Dakota. Four days before the big day, a hurricane hit the mid-Atlantic coast. Ann and her husband had been without electricity and water in their Annapolis-area home for four days, so she was shocked to even get a flight.
Other courses were in progress when she arrived at the hotel in North Dakota a day before her presentation. The meeting planners were sitting in the back of the room. Ann waved to them, and they waved back. It was obvious that they did not recognize Ann, since she had not showered or washed her hair in three days and hardly resembled her professional picture.
After whispering her identity, she was greeted with a startled, "Oh, Ann ... it's you?!?"
Sometimes silk isn't the fabric of choice
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
Conventional wisdom tells speakers to dress comfortably for presentations. The more comfortable you feel, the more comfortable you'll be when you're speaking. Liz Cappelli, RDH, loves wearing silk. When she was packing for her first trip to Asia, she included her favorite silk suit, complete with a skimpy silk camisole to wear under the jacket.
Liz was scheduled to present courses on sharpening instruments and advanced periodontal scaling techniques at a dental meeting in Thailand. Liz knew how hot and humid the country could be, but she did not know that the definition of air-conditioning in Thailand is a bit different than in this country. As the day wore on, Liz got hotter and hotter, but the thought of removing her jacket was out of the question.
Her camisole was now dripping wet and stuck to her like the most revealing garment sold in Victoria's Secret — hardly a professional image!
Would you like coffee, tea, or a place to change?
On another cross-country trip, Ann Spolarich was scheduled to change planes in Chicago. Severe thunderstorms hit the Midwest, grounding all flights. Twenty-four hours later after sleeping under an airport bench, she dusted herself off and boarded a plane for her final destination of Seattle. Once on board, she did some quick calculations and realized that she would barely make it to her presentation on time. Thoroughly disheveled and determined to arrive well-dressed, she grabbed her suit out of her carry-on luggage.
The airplane's bathroom was the size of postage stamp — not enough room for changing clothes. So she hatched a plan with the help of the female fight attendants. The galley area would serve as Ann's changing room even though there was no privacy curtain. The flight attendants stood guard as she quickly put on her panty hose and red suit.
When the lady sitting next to Ann woke up, she murmured, "I could have sworn you were wearing blue when we boarded!" Ann arrived at her destination 10 minutes before the program was scheduled to start. No one ever found out what a clever quick-change artist she could be.
The Waiting Game
Do you ever get a little pang of anxiety when you check your luggage at the airport? Have you ever thought that you just might spend the entire weekend in the same outfit or have to spend time finding something acceptable to wear in some remote location? Even though I never check my slides or personal necessities and always travel in an outfit suitable to wear to a course, there is still some luggage that must be checked.
My suitcase full of clothes failed to arrive in El Paso when I did. Even though the airline personnel were sure that my bag would show up, worry plagued my psyche. Were my clothes still on the plane, headed for Los Angeles, or did someone confuse the salmon-colored El Paso tag with the peach-colored Providence, R.I., tag? If the clothes were headed east, I'd be wearing the same outfit for two days in a row! What if they vanished into the great abyss of lost luggage? Not all airports verify luggage tags. What if someone took my suitcase by accident?
My day was punctuated with phone calls to baggage claim. Early in the evening I learned my errant suitcase had arrived. Now I was free to enjoy the sites, rather than spend time at a shopping mall improving El Paso's retail economy!
No Room in the Inn
After a six-hour delay in the Dallas airport, Kathy Phipps, RDH, DrPH, was relieved to arrive in Nashville. The airline could not locate her suitcase, which contained her slides, but at least she would a get a bit of rest before her course on osteoporosis at the ADHA meeting in Nashville.
It was after midnight when she checked in at the hotel. She could not believe her ears. The hotel clerk told Kathy there were no rooms available in the hotel; however, she was welcome to sleep on a roll-a-way bed in a conference room. She had a confirmed reservation, and Kathy stood firm as the minutes passed.
Finally, the clerk "found" a luxury suite for Kathy. She spent the rest of the night dreaming her cares away while her missing suitcase was located and delivered to the hotel early in the morning.
The trouble with cranberry
Washing Your Troubles Down the Drain
Picture Margaret Ferenbach, RDH, MS, clad head to toe in a beautiful, perfectly tailored cream-colored outfit. Trying to keep relaxed before her presentation, Margaret sat at the end of a row of auditorium desks that were all attached, calmly sipping a small glass of cranberry juice. Suddenly, someone at the other end jumped up quickly, shaking the entire row of desks. The cranberry juice spilled all over Margaret's clothes. With no time to change, she headed for the ladies' room, hoping to clean up the mess.
She wanted to find an out-of-the-way bathroom, but, as fate would have it, she had picked the bathroom for seminar participants. Margaret removed her slacks and washed the red juice out. Then, as she was standing in her undies holding her slacks under the wall-mounted dryer, participants of the course she was going to teach walked in. Margaret recounts, "I just stood there. They said hello and I said hello ... It was very human."
Everything's ready but the shoes
Imelda Marcos, Where are you when we need you?
Early in her speaking career, Jill Rethman, RDH, BS, was scheduled to present a program in Cumberland, Md. Everything she needed for her presentation was packed in her car. She had her favorite red suit and her slides. Jill arrived in Cumberland, a four-hour drive from her home, feeling calm, secure, and ready for the course. She checked into her hotel for a good night's sleep, patting her self on the back for allowing enough time to rest before her presentation.
In the morning, though, she began dressing and discovered her shoes were still at home. Cumberland is a small town. Even in a big town, nothing is open at 7:30 a.m. Jill weighed her choices: Go barefoot or wear her new white tennis shoes that she wore on the drive up. She put a smile on her face, laced up the tennis shoes, and strolled onto an elevated stage. No one in the audience said a word about her apparent lack of dressing etiquette. Finally, at the end of the day, she told the audience of her mishap and was greeted with a round of applause!
Trenchcoat, a dental meeting, and it's time for I Spy
Woman on a Mission
About 15 years ago Anna Pattison, RDH, MS, and her husband, Dr. Gordon Pattison, attended a meeting in Northern California. Anna was scheduled to present her program just after lunch. As soon as she finished, the couple planned to drive back to their home in Southern California. Rather than wait for Anna, Gordon announced he would put all of their belongings in the car before he attended another course.
Anna then decided to pamper herself with a leisurely shower. When she stepped out of the shower and glanced around the room, she fought back panic. Her efficient husband had taken everything to the car, except her trench coat and one pair of high heels. She ran to the window, praying that she would see him in the parking lot loading the car. Gordon was not in sight, and he had the car keys.
How would Anna get her clothes? Anna became a woman on a mission. She slipped on the heels with no stockings — a severe fashion no-no in the 1980s — and buttoned the trench coat all the way up. With a smile on her face, but panic in her heart, she left the hotel determined to find her husband and the car keys. When she entered the convention center, she was like a pinball machine, seemingly encountering every hygienist and dentist she had ever met. She even had to chat, while naked under her trench coat, with the dean from the University of Southern California, where she was the director of dental hygiene. All were oblivious to her predicament.
It took Anna an hour to get through the throngs of people and locate the room where her super efficient husband sat amongst hundreds of attendees. She circled the room, crouching as low as possible to avoid disruption, frantically searching for Gordon.
When she finally spied him, he, of course, did not have an aisle seat. After retrieving the keys, Anna raced back to the car for her clothes. She even made it to her course on time!
Do you know Lamaze too?
Close to the Vest
At age 42, Jackie Tomlinson, RDH, BA, already had two adopted sons, one biological son, and was pregnant again. She was scheduled to present an all day OSHA seminar to a very large group of physicians and their staff members in Little Rock, Ark. The unexpected pregnancy took Jackie's speaking schedule by surprise, so she decided to purchase a maternity outfit suitable for the speaking engagement.
When Jackie arrived at her hotel at midnight, she didn't bother to look at her clothes. Early the next morning, she pulled her suit out and discovered something was awry. The suit's jacket was designed with a bib insert that snapped into the front of the jacket like a dicky, replacing the blouse. This jacket, which opened to the waist, could not be buttoned and the bib was not in the bag. Now what? Of course, she did not bring any type of blouse on this trip.
A determined Jackie immediately headed for the front desk where she found two women young enough to be her teenage daughters. In her finest Texas drawl, she pointedly told the two young women, " I have a problem. I need help, and I am depending on the two of you to help me!"
They quickly ushered Tomlinson into the hotel's private office where she bared all, anxiously inquiring if either young woman had a white blouse. One of the young women, an obvious size 10, thought she might have one in her locker. The three women had bonded!
The size 10 blouse buttoned up the front. The very pregnant Jackie slipped her arms through the sleeves with the back of the blouse barely covering her bulging belly. Her two young assistants used rubber bands to secure the blouse across Jackie's back. The final line of defense was the name tag, which was carefully pinned to both sides of the jacket to keep it from flying open during the program. Jackie's secret was never revealed, and she never wore the outfit again.
It isn't the cereal you're feeling
Snap, Crackle, Pop
Frieda Pickett, RDH, MS, woke up early on the day of a presentation. She dressed quickly, putting on a newly purchased pair of panty hose. She headed for breakfast and then on to the seminar room. Something felt amiss but Frieda was focused on setting up her computer and testing the microphone. Suddenly, something snapped!
Frieda clamped her thighs together and remained calm as she made her way to the ladies room. With every hobbled step, her panty hose slipped farther and farther down. She removed the renegade stockings and promptly deposited them in the trash, continuing the day barelegged.
My goodness, what are they laughing about now?
Nancy Miller, RDH, BS, recalls a memorable seminar in Minot, N.D. While busy presenting a seminar to a large audience, consisting of mainly women, Nancy felt something moving! What she felt was her panty hose migrating south, rolling down like a window shade rolling up! Would the errant panty hose become a tourniquet around her knees?
The ever stoic Miller nonchalantly pointed to a slide, trying to divert the audiences' attention. She grabbed at the waist of her pantyhose through her gauzy skirt and pulled the panty hose back up from around her hips as well she could. She dodged a bullet.
Nancy continued speaking, relieved that no one in the audience had noticed her dilemma. When she turned around to pick up something off of the podium, a ripple of giggles spread through the room. Nancy had tucked the skirt hem into the pantyhose waistband — her whole backside exposed! Her final thoughts on this episode were, "Thank goodness I followed my mother's childhood instructions to wear good underwear!"
Always checking buttons
Lil Caperila, RDH, BS, will never leave home again without checking all of her buttons. Last year, when she returned home from a class, Lil discovered the buttons on the sleeve of her silk jacket were still covered with the foil that the dry-cleaning establishment uses to protect buttons from chemical damage. Several students had seen the "foiled buttons," but were so confused they never mentioned it.
Several months later, the button demon struck again! As Lil was getting ready for a program in New York City, she discovered that her suit jacket was missing a button in the front. This particular suit jacket was designed to be worn buttoned up the front and did not have an accompanying blouse. Each sleeve had one button and one of these buttons was cracked. With no other outfit available, she grabbed one of those mini-sewing kits and quickly removed the one salvageable button from the jacket sleeve, sewing it into the empty spot on the front. Even though it was a bit smaller than the missing button, it still saved the day.
The Return of the Mummy
Anna Pattison asked her husband to pick up her dress at the dry cleaners. When he arrived there, though, the dress was nowhere to be found. They frantically phoned Anna, and she begged the establishment to look for her garment one more time. Finally, the dress was found. Relieved, her husband accepted the slightly damp dress, proud that he had rescued his wife again.
Anna, a seasoned traveler, wanted to minimize her luggage, so she slipped the dress on before heading for the airport and flying to the course location.
During the flight, Anna noticed her skin felt a bit strange. When she arrived at her hotel late in the evening, she removed the dress and discovered that her body was covered with blisters. The dress had been damp with dry cleaning solution and this was the only outfit she had brought. It was, of course, too late to go shopping.
Anna immediately called a friend in California who was an emergency room nurse. Anna's friend knew that she must create a barrier between her body and the contaminated dress. Her friend suggested that Anna wrap herself in toilet tissue. The hotel provided Anna with a roll of masking tape, and early in the morning Anna wrapped her entire body like a mummy in hotel's quality toilet tissue.
For further protection from the caustic chemicals, she also lined the entire dress and reports that it was an experience fitting into her dress with layer upon layer of barrier protection!
Just imagine how much planning it would take to be on the road for two weeks straight. When Joanne Gurenlian, RDH, PhD, was ADHA president, she often faced such dilemmas. At the end of one two-week stretch, Joanne was feeling very smug that she had pulled the whole thing off. She even had her husband meet her at the airport and exchange prepacked suitcases half way through her travels! As soon as some ADHA meetings adjourned in Chicago, she was on her way to teach an evening course in Connecticut.
When she arrived at her hotel, Joanne had 20 minutes to get checked in and changed into her presentation suit. Her dress shoes, however, were still in a Chicago hotel and not in her suitcase. She opted to wear her black Isotoner slippers to the course, but the real challenge lay ahead. The following morning, she had to give opening remarks to the entire Connecticut DHA House of Delegates.
A friend loaned her a pair of dress shoes that were a few sizes too small for Joanne. As soon as she completed her remarks, she changed back into her travel sneakers. The following year, the Connecticut DHA presented Joanne with a pair of elf shoes commemorating the event.
A Little Bag of Tricks
Like many experienced speakers, Jackie Tomlinson presents courses on a variety of different topics. She arrived in Rapid City, S.D., late one evening. Jackie checked everything as she unpacked. She had the course handouts, the course materials, and her script.
She had everything for her seminar about dental products except the right slides! She had inadvertently picked up the slides for her course on patient compliance. Even though it was 10 p.m., Jackie frantically phoned her husband in Dallas and soon found out there was no way to get the product slides to Rapid City in time for the seminar.
Nothing short of a miracle would work. Jackie quickly sorted through the slides she brought, hoping to find enough material to get her out of this Texas-sized jam. Luck was in her corner. She found enough product slides and presented the program with no one the wiser.
New suitcases hit the top of my wish list as soon as I began traveling around the country — ones that would be easy to pack, easy to transport and could withstand the rigors of being tossed around like a rag doll. Houston has luggage stores that sell everything needed to make traveling manageable. The store manager asked me to bring everything that I would take on a trip so we could select the perfect luggage for my needs, and I did.
Tennessee was my next destination. I carefully packed everything I needed for the five-day trip and marveled at how easily the new luggage wheeled through the airport. When I arrived, though, I could not open my new suitcase. Fortunately, the course slides were in my wheeled carry-on, but everything else was locked inside the larger suitcase — clothes and all other course supplies. I got panicky and tried to reach the manufacturer, knowing the luggage store in Houston was already closed.
Luckily, a Tennessee hygienist kept her cool and called a local locksmith who suggested the suitcase lock might still be on a default setting, even though I insisted that the Houston clerk had set the lock with my secret code. Sure enough, the locksmith was right!
It's just a little bitty fire! Carry on with the speech!
And the Show Must Go On
Years ago, Beth Thompson, RDH, BS, knew a colleague who was a bit high-strung. Beth's friend often got nervous before a program and usually arrived early just to make certain that everything was set up properly. All of the preparation in the world sometimes can be just a little short of the mark.
After the introduction, the lights dimmed for the program. A sudden noise startled everyone in the room. The slide projector was on fire. Her slides were melting! For the next five minutes, all the speaker could utter was, "Oh, !&@?! What am I going to do?" Since the speaker had the total attention and empathy of the audience, she hoped to reschedule and get the heck out of Dodge! After Beth and the audience convinced her to continue, she went on to give one of her best presentations ever and received rave reviews for the course.
Imagine the Possibilities
Can you imagine trying to do your job without your instruments? Janis Keating faced just such a challenge at one course. As she was setting up for the program, she realized that her demonstration materials were not with her. Janis had to rely on her slides to pull her through and no one in the audience ever knew that they did not get the "full show."
But the queen of imagination was to be tested again. Janis had traveled to California only to find out that the slide projector hadn't been used in many years. Apparently, no one had bothered to check the projector, and cobwebs filled the area where the bulb was supposed to be. When Janis reached the clinical portion of the program, she asked the audience to close their eyes and imagine a xerostomic mouth, root surface caries, and teeth covered with calculus and plaque, challenging the participants to think of every adjective that would create a mental picture of inflamed gingival tissues. At the end of the program, Janis concluded that people could be amazingly adaptable.
When Darkness Falls
Frieda Pickett was speaking at the Texas Dental Hygienists' Association meeting in Corpus Christi. During her presentation, a car hit a power transformer close to the hotel. The entire hotel lost electrical power. The lecture room was pitch black, so dark you couldn't see your own hand in front of your face. Not knowing anything about the accident or why the electricity failed, Frieda continued on with her presentation without lights, slides, or microphone. Everyone sat perfectly still so they were able to hear her very soft voice. Fortunately, the power was restored about 10 minutes later.
Most speakers are converting their tried and true 35mm slide presentations to the fancier computer-generated formats. Technology-dependent Power Point presentations can be very attractive and fun to present but are subject to all types of unforeseen glitches. For the past few years, I have created new 35mm slides on my computer. This has become second nature to me. Just design the slides, e-mail the computer file to a slide company, and, 48 hours later, new slides are on your doorstep.
Now my presentations were going to be projected onto the screen via a computer and LCD projector. This was a big step for me, and the RDH Under One Roof conference in Denver was going to be my big debut.
It is hard to remember how many hours were spent developing a spiffy new background and color scheme, as well as creating new slides just for this meeting. Rather than rely completely on my computer, I copied the Denver course onto a CD. Common sense tells you always to have a backup.
Then the unbelievable happened. I opened up an e-mail attachment, and a very deadly virus hit my computer exactly 48 hours before my presentation, causing it to completely lock up. Frantically, I called my computer guru who was on his way to Glacier National Park. But he assured me that he had never met a virus he could not treat, so we planned to tackle the problem over the phone that evening, not realizing that the mountains would block cell phone signals.
That evening, it was very difficult to focus on packing for Denver. Why didn't my computer genius answer my calls? What if my CD backup didn't work? With my mind cluttered with worry, I calmly sorted through all of my trusty slides, trying to create a visual presentation that would match my handout. Once I made it to Denver, we tried to read the backup CD on another computer.
No one could open it! Back to square one! The following morning I plunked my slide carousel down on the projector. I asked someone to close a large curtain so that the morning sunlight streaming in wouldn't limit view of my slides. But the electric motor that allowed the curtain to be shut was broken, so I just forged ahead, feeling confident that a good handout would save the day.
Quick! Someone catch that guy!
The Linus Factor
Even seasoned speakers want a security blanket when they present a program for the first time. You know, a little set of notes, a cheat sheet, just something to fall back on if you get stuck. Joanne Gurenlian is no different.
Joanne was the second speaker in an afternoon program. While the first speaker was wrapping up his program, Joanne discreetly placed her notes on the podium. As soon as he finished answering questions from the audience, he grabbed a stack of papers and rushed out of the auditorium. During the brief break, Joanne discovered her security blanket was gone and she had her predecessor's notes. Little good that would do her. Joanne's friend called his office, found out his cell phone number, and was able to make contact with the other presenter. He made a beeline back to the meeting and presented her with the notes a half hour later.
Ole! Does anyone in the audience have a song, uh, question?
The Sound of Music
A large hotel ballroom, subdivided into many smaller rooms by removable partitions, can create a challenging environment. If the event in the next room is anything above normal conversation level, sounds can leak from one "room" to another. My local dental hygiene component invited me to present a program last September. This was the first time I had ever been invited to speak to my own group and I prepared diligently for the 90-minute program.
The room was packed. As soon as I began to speak, a salsa band next door started to play, drowning out nearly every word. Each time the band stopped, I secretly prayed they were finished for the evening. The end could not come too soon, but I survived the sound effects and received glowing reviews from my sympathetic colleagues. I knew by the end of that evening if I could survive speaking in front of my friends of many years with a band blaring in the background, I was ready to tackle any speaking challenge that would cross my path.
Kim Herremans had a similar experience in Connecticut a few years ago. Kim's presentation focused on recent advancements in ultrasonic scaling. The meeting on the other side of the wall was packed with men attending a "Tim Taylor" extravaganza, a power tool conference. "Argh, argh, argh." Kim and her attendees spent the day serenaded by choruses of testosterone grunts.
Every time the guys grunted, Kim led the hygienists in the chant "and the hygienists agree with you, too." Pretty soon, every chorus of grunts was greeted with a chorus of hygiene giggles.
A demonstration of being stressed out
Against All Odds
Countless books have been written about stress. Each one of us knows how stress can change the course of a day. Gail Bemis Stoops, RDH, presents a program that focuses on stress and its impact on patients and dental professionals. During the course, Gail reviews the physiological changes in the body that a stressful event can trigger, things such as clammy hands, a rapid heart rate, and increased respiration.
At one particular meeting, Gail's course was preceded by a breakfast. Shortly before she was scheduled to start, she checked to make sure everyone was finished eating. Without telling anyone where she was going, she slipped out for one last trip to the ladies room.
When she was ready to return to her audience, Gail found out that she was locked in the bathroom, and no one knew where she was. As Gail began to yell and pound on the door, her stress-o-meter began to go higher and higher, and she began to experience all of the classic signs of stress. Finally, someone walking down the hallway heard her cries of distress and opened the jammed door, freeing her to return to her audience. She was able to give her audience a marvelous first-hand account of how well human physiology responds.
An Exercise in Flexibility
Jackie Tomlinson had a course scheduled in Lansing, Mich., an hour ride from the Detroit airport. Her 3½ hour flight from Dallas was scheduled to arrive around 5 p.m. A local dental hygienist had volunteered to meet Jackie and drive her to the course location. Bad weather developed during the flight, and violent thunderstorms rocked the plane. The flight fell behind schedule. Officials then closed the Detroit airport due to the weather, and the plane was diverted to a small airport miles away.
It was now midnight, and Jackie and her fellow passengers were anxious to get off this nightmare plane. But no! FAA rules require that a security officer escort passengers from the plane to the terminal, but the security officers had already gome home. Other rules prevented food from being served while the aircraft was parked on the runway. They could not escape!
Two hours later, the hungry, exhausted travelers were ushered into the terminal, which was completely shut down. Rental cars and food were out of the question, so the airline personnel went to an all-night grocery store, bought some food, and the passengers dined on their choice of turkey, ham, or peanut butter sandwiches.
As soon as the weather cleared, the plane took off for Detroit. Jackie finally arrived at 3:30 a.m., and guess who was there? Jackie's chauffeur! They arrived in Lansing at 4:30 a.m., just a few hours before the program. Jackie drank four carafes of tea in order to stay awake during her program.
As soon as she finished, she headed for the hotel, where she spent the next 24 hours recovering from the joys of traveling.
Ma'am, Just What Does Your Suitcase Look Like?
Janis Keating's suitcase had vanished by the time she arrived in Grand Island, Neb. The only clothes she had were the ones on her back, and they were hardly proper attire for the next day's continuing education course. It was 9 p.m., and the shopping prospects were very slim. Janis settled for a jogging suit and a matching pair of gym shoes.
A week later, after numerous phone calls, the delayed luggage was located. At that time, it was the airline's policy to store all delayed luggage at a truck stop on Nebraska's Highway 80. An alert clerk at the truck stop found the missing suitcase; the airlines shipped it back to Janis, reimbursing her for her new outfit.
Critics slide right off her outfits
A Little Dab Will Do Ya
Kristine Hodsdon, RDH, BS, carefully planned her outfit for her next engagement. She packed her new navy blue suit that she planned to wear and her favorite bottle of lotion, creamy and heavy with oil. Kristine decided it was foolish to rent a car for such a short trip, so she took a cab to her hotel from the airport. It was early evening by the time she arrived at her hotel.
Fortunately, Kristine decided to unpack her clothes as soon as she got to her room. Kristine's careful packing had gone down the drain. Her suit was covered with blobs of oily, fragrant lotion, so she hiked to a shopping center about a mile and a half away and purchased a new suit that night. How many of you can just walk into a store and buy something off of the rack?
Hotels where cab drivers don't stay
Patti Parker, RDH, BA, was busy putting the finishing touches on a presentation she was delivering at the University of Southern California. Rather than bother with the trip details, she asked her travel agent to take care of all the arrangements.
Patti knew there was a hotel right across the street from the school and thought she remembered the correct name. She asked the agent to make her hotel reservations there. Patti and her colleague thought the cabbie gave them a strange look when they asked him to take them to the hotel. Imagine Patti's surprise when he pulled up to an establishment specializing in short stays better known as "afternoon delights!"
As fresh as an Italian summer
Melting Like Gelato
In June 1998, Maria Perno, RDH, MS, celebrated the end of her year as ADHA president at the annual session in New Orleans. She was scheduled to teach the next day at the International Federation of Dental Hygienists meeting. She could not leave the New Orleans meeting early and they could not schedule Maria's course later during the IFDH conference. Maria flew all night to Milan, Italy, and switched to a plane bound for Florence.
She jumped into a cab for the ride of a lifetime. The cabbie darted in and out of traffic and sped through the streets of Florence in true "Italian" style. To make matters worse, Florence had been hit with an unexpected heat wave, and temperatures topped 104 degrees. By the time she arrived at the hotel, she had 45 minutes to spare. Her hotel room was horribly hot, but she showered, changed into fresh clothes, and walked four blocks in the heat to present her program. Even though she felt like she was melting, everyone remarked how well-rested and cool as a cucumber she looked, especially after her long journey.
It's All in Your Head
Imagine how Frieda Pickett felt when she came back from the lunch break during an all-day seminar in north Texas. The course sponsor had assured her that the meeting room would be locked and someone would be around to watch all of the equipment. After lunch, a hotel employee unlocked the room for Frieda, but something was not right. Where was the slide that she had left projected on the screen and where was her computer?
Frieda was up a creek without the proverbial paddle. Her slide show was on the computer and her clinical slides were on a CD in the disk drive. Everything had been stolen and an anxious Frieda was forced to present the entire afternoon off the top of her head.
Silence is Golden
My throat started to feel a bit scratchy 48 hours before my first all-day program. This is my body's warning sign that I am headed for a sinus infection and probably will lose my voice. The stakes were too high to risk a case of laryngitis. My husband suggested that I contact the meeting planner and let her know about this problem, but I wasn't about to let the group down. I sent out distress e-mail messages to every speaker I knew asking for their infinite words of wisdom and incorporated every home remedy or suggestion they offered.
Common sense told me not to use my voice at all until the day of the program. For those of you who know me, this was the ultimate penance!
Not a single, audible sound passed my lips for more than 48 hours. I drank gallons of hot herbal tea laced with fresh lemon juice and honey, and popped Echinacea tablets all day long. For two days, every communication was written. My patients and office mates were very patient while I laboriously communicated with a pen. I prayed hard, hoping that my voice would recover for my speaking debut. As soon as I stepped off the plane, my vocal cords were put to the test. I had to speak. Yes, my voice had recovered enough so no one in the audience ever knew about the challenge I had faced.
Pardon Me, What Did You Just Say?
Joanne Gurenlian was invited to participate in an international symposium along with several other hygienists and one dentist. In order to prevent repetition and develop a program that would flow, the meeting coordinator arranged a conference call with all of the speakers so they could discuss the topics and agree on each speaker's subject matter. Each participant was asked to discuss the subject from his or her perspective as a hygienist or a dentist. The conference coordinator asked each speaker to share their outline and notes with the other speakers.
Joanne obliged and sent her materials to everyone. On the day of the course, Joanne sat in the audience listening to the other speakers. When the dentist began to present his material, she could not believe her ears. He was presenting her program! What nerve! By the time he finished, he had left her with about 15 minutes of material.
As the course broke for lunch, Joanne's "friend" strolled by and said, "Hope I didn't steal your thunder." A dazed Gurenlian headed for the luncheon, getting sicker by the minute. She picked at her food, finally excused herself, and headed for the ladies room. She started calling on higher powers. Desperate, Joanne begged to be blessed with any inner skill that would pull her out of this mess in the next 30 minutes.
Joanne got focused. What were her skills? A plan emerged. She was an experienced educator and this was her lifeline. Joanne started the afternoon with the 15 minutes that she still had left of her program and then led the group into a lively discussion and a series of activities. Before she knew it, her time was up and the audience loved her presentation.
No slack for the weary
The Quality of Mercy
Speakers must be amazingly adaptable. Sometimes audiences are remarkably gracious, and sometimes we wish that audiences would show a drop of mercy. Janis Keating travels all over the country from her home in Colorado. On one trip she experienced a terrible weather delay in Chicago, arriving at the Miami airport at 1:30 a.m., and in her hotel room at 3 a.m. She woke up three hours later and finished assembling her slides for her all-day presentation.
Keating, exhausted by the ordeal of traveling the day before, was stunned by the following participant evaluation: "As a speaker, you should be used to the hassles of weather and travel. It's not an excuse for a less than perfect presentation!" I am sure that Janis would be happy to share her speaker moccasins with this attendee.
Keeping an Eye Out
Beth Thompson was invited to present at the Hinman meeting in Atlanta about 15 years ago. The audience was expected to number 300 to 400. But this did not faze Beth since she had given this particular program a number of times in the past 18 months.
Beth arrived early to check everything out. She had been alone in the room, but suddenly she looked up and saw a hygienist who had never been a real friend leafing through her notes. Beth calmly asked her what she was doing, and the woman replied that her schedule was really tight, so she wanted to see if Beth's course was worth her time.
Beth responded by telling this hygienist that she believed that she could learn a lot that morning, since the program had to do with how people like to be treated, especially in stressful situations. The "colleague" was there when the course started, although Beth never knew if she stayed for the whole course.
If you're not too cold, the ice cream is free
The Weather Gods Have Spoken
Jane Weiner was teaching a three-day national board review course last year in Atlanta. She woke up unusually early on the last day and immediately sensed something was very wrong. The lights were out. Jane called downstairs and learned that an ice storm had hit and there was no electricity in the entire city of Atlanta. Hotel security escorted Jane and the other two instructors down the narrow stairwell into the lobby. The trio agreed that canceling was out of the question, since this was the last day of the course.
While they were reviewing their options, light started to stream into the lobby atrium. A plan was hatched to finish the last day of lectures in the atrium illuminated with solar light! Everyone bundled up in blankets, mittens, and scarves. No electricity meant no slides, no microphones, and no hot food.
After a series of clever negotiations, the hotel agreed to feed everyone lunch free of charge with the food stored in the hotel refrigerators. As soon as the course was over, power was restored in the hotel, but everyone felt a wonderful sense of satisfaction at what they had accomplished against such odds.
One Ring-a-Dingy, two Ring-a-Dingy
Imagine my embarrassment at a recent course in El Paso when a cell phone started to ring about mid-morning. I wished the owner would politely silence the phone, but just kept on with my program like nothing was going on. You guessed it. It was my phone! When I admitted the embarrassing fact to my audience, I said the caller would just have to wait for me to finish my program since I had no idea who it could be. The audience laughed, but I was ready to crawl under the table where the offending phone was discreetly hidden.
The hole in the roof would just about validate Murphy's Law
The Sky is Falling
When Trisha O'Hehir, RDH, was working out the details for a course, the meeting planner from the local dental hygiene association mentioned that last year's speaker had failed to make the meeting. Trisha assured the planner that she would be there without fail — famous last words! Not forgetting her promise, Trisha boarded her flight in Phoenix. A mechanical problem delayed the takeoff. By the time they were allowed to get off the plane, there were no more flights out that night. Trisha considered chartering a private plane but none were available. She was forced to phone the planner, explaining that she would arrive the next day around noon.
When Trisha arrived, she immediately began making up for lost time. A severe Wyoming thunderstorm started about an hour into the presentation. Apparently, the weight of the rainwater was more than the roof could handle. Suddenly, a torrent of water fell on the meeting planner and everyone sitting at her table. Once the mess was cleaned up, a 35-gallon trash can, lined with a large plastic bag, was placed under the gaping hole. The noise from the rain hitting the plastic liner created a constant distraction for the rest of the afternoon. Trisha tried to continue her presentation as if nothing had happened, praying that no more surprises were in store.
Every speaker knows it is critical to check the AV equipment as soon as possible. My friends have drilled this rule into my psyche. The hotel AV man was the first person I wanted to see when I arrived in Nevada. As soon as I inquired about the projector for the next day's class, he rolled his eyeballs and said everyone was using Power Point. I immediately reminded him that I had requested an old fashioned 35 mm slide projector! He looked a bit uncomfortable about this tidbit of news, mumbling something about the hotel projectors not being in topnotch shape. He assured me that he would check the unit out, making sure that the auto focus and the remote control operated properly. We made a date to meet at 7:30 a.m. to review last-minute details.
The following morning, Mr. AV was nowhere to be found, but he left a note on the machine saying everything was working properly. I breathed a sigh of relief, which was my first mistake. When I started to unpack the course supplies, I realized my new laser pointer was still in the hotel room. Still feeling secure, I took off to retrieve the pointer.
After returning to the room and grabbing a quick bite to eat, I placed my slide carousel on the hotel's projector. Nothing happened! The clock ticked away as we searched for Mr. AV. Twenty minutes before the program, he strolled into the room and announced my traditional slide carousels would not work on this machine since it could only accommodate 80-slide trays.
Then Mr. AV promised to locate a couple of carousels for the course. With 10 minutes left, we frantically moved all of my slides into his trays, hoping not to mix up the order or place them upside down. As soon as I started the program, the machine developed an attitude.
Slides kept getting stuck. Mr. AV came back and said my slides were "too fat." A few minutes later, I looked up and the projector had vanished. In desperation, I looked the audience square in the face and said thank goodness for a detailed handout. Later, I heard an unhappy Mr. AV took the projector out to the hall and promptly threw one of the carousels in the trash.
When Jane Weiner plans one of her national board review courses, she tries to book the same hotels year in and year out. She was drinking coffee one morning and suddenly had to go to the ladies room. As she entered the facilities, she thought things looked a bit different than the previous year. On her way out she spotted the urinal on the wall.
The restaurant hostess and waitress had spied Jane's apparent faux pas, so they stood guard at the entrance to the men's room until Jane emerged with her face as red as a beet!
This is what washing hands souonds like
Every speaker has a microphone story to tell. Many of us have entertained audiences unknowingly with our lavatory escapades. In the early 1990s, wireless lavaliere microphones were new technology. Kristy Menage Bernie, RDH, BS, was presenting a course on OSHA Compliance to a group of 500 medical and dental professionals in Newark, N.J.
All was going well and, at the break, Kristy headed for the ladies room. Within minutes of entering the bathroom and stepping into the stall, a participant came running in and told Kristy her microphone was still on and transmitting very well. The group loved her faux pax and Kristy reported to the audience that universal hand-washing was being practiced in the ladies room.
Ultimate Protection Plan
Shari Peterson, RDH, MS, was new to the speaking circuit and was not particularly familiar with the dynamics of lavaliere microphones. While she was speaking to a large group of PTA members about decay rates among elementary school children in southern Nevada, her panty hose started driving her nuts. During the break, she ran to the ladies room to rearrange them, grunting and groaning to get the renegade stockings installed in the right place.
A dear friend of Shari's knocked on the stall door and asked if she wouldn't consider turning the lavaliere off since everyone in the lecture room was getting the play by play of her struggle. Today, Shari practices the ultimate prevention by taking the microphone off as soon as she finishes her presentation.
Just lie down like I'm doing
The Longest Day
Kim Herremans was excited about her first course for the Michigan Dental Association. Kim would lecture on the first day and then teach the hands-on clinical portion the following day with the help of two other hygienists. On the day of the lecture, Herremans woke up with a fever and a full-blown case of GI tract flu.
Barely able to get her clothes on between all of the trips to the bathroom, she quickly called the concierge and secured a big bottle of Kaopectate. She spent the entire day lecturing with the bottle stuffed in her rear pocket. Every time she could distract the audience with a video, she rushed to the ladies room, swigging Kaopectate as she ran down the hall. She spent the following day sipping 7UP and supervised the course reclined in a clinic chair as her able assistants taught the hands-on portion.
Hygienists are educated to assess the situation, make a plan, act accordingly, and roll with the punches. Initially, I dubbed Sherry "The Survivor," but now you know each one of us is a survivor. We have taken our dental hygiene skills into a new arena. You have just had a peek at our little secrets and our more human side. Every time we stroll up to the podium, we are ready for whatever challenge is sent our way.
Thank you for letting us have our say. We are taking a collective bow!