A few years ago, I was asked to give a short oral presentation at a Graduate Orthodontic Residents Program (GORP) after the evening banquet. I had given many lectures to audiences of orthodontists and had always illustrated my presentations using PowerPoint or Keynote. I had never given an oral presentation without slides or a computer. How could I entertain 250 orthodontic residents after a banquet meal and give them a meaningful message? That was my challenge.
I decided that my theme would be “Five guidelines for becoming a great orthodontist.” My goal was to instill in those soon-to-be orthodontists a perspective about professional life that I had gained after 20 years of practice. So, I identified 5 key topics that I wanted to cover: education, control, balance, interdisciplinary, and focus. Then, to illustrate each topic, I chose an object that would create a mental image of the point that I was trying to make. I knew that the residents were likely to forget the words I was speaking, but perhaps they would remember the objects I showed, and that would keep the message alive in their memories.
Once I had identified the objects, I placed each one in a brown grocery bag and labeled the bags 1 through 5. My plan was to pull the object out of the bag when I spoke about each topic. I know this sounds corny, but I was determined to try to maintain the audience’s attention.
One of my topics was balance. I wanted to share with the residents that achieving balance in life takes some work. To illustrate this point, I pulled a stock balsa-wood glider out of the bag and related the parts of the glider to the responsibilities of life. The nose of the glider represented personal life and all of the extra activities we do for ourselves: running, golf, tennis, skiing, and so on. The tail section of the glider represented all the people with whom we are closely affiliated during our lives—spouse, children, parents, family, and friends. The right wing was orthodontic practice and all of the responsibilities that a private practice entails, including treating patients, staff meetings, correspondence with referring doctors, and hiring employees. Finally, the left wing was professional activities, such as local dental society meetings, study club meetings, orthodontic meetings, Kiwanis or Rotary club, church activities, and others.
After explaining all parts of the glider and their influences on an orthodontist’s life, I threw the plane out into the audience. It flew beautifully, and I told the residents that if they had all parts of their life in balance like that glider, they would fly through life with few problems. Then I reached into my grocery bag and pulled out a second glider with several heavy paper clips attached to the front of the plane. I described this scenario as an orthodontist who devotes a disproportionate amount of time to personal activities (golf, exercise, skiing). Of course, when I threw this glider out into the audience, it nose-dived to the floor and crashed. Life out of balance.
Then I pulled another glider out of the bag with paper clips attached to the back of the plane to simulate an orthodontist who is overly involved in activities with family and friends. When I launched it out into the audience, it quickly fell to the ground and crashed. Another life out of balance.
I gave the same analogies with paper clips attached to the right wing and then to the left to simulate how disproportionate time spent in orthodontic practice or on professional activities outside the office would also cause the glider to crash on the floor. My point to the residents was that, when you are the pilot, it might be difficult to determine when your life and its activities are out of balance. My advice was to find a dependable copilot (spouse, good friend, or significant other) who could gently remind you when your glider—your life—is out of balance.