A question every presenter should ask

Recently, my good friend Tim Connelly and I were discussing our continuing experiences with horrible presentations.  After some friendly banter, Tim and I realized that we would like to have every presenter ask him- or herself a simple question before the presentation:

“Do I want to sit through this presentation?”

I cannot believe that most presenters routinely ask themselves this question.  If they did, then I believe the state of general presentation quality would be vastly different…

Delivering a good, let alone an excellent, presentation is VERY difficult.  This fact does not mean, however, that we should shy away from trying to give the best presentation possible every time we present.  If you do not like your slides or do not find them useful, then it is very likely that no one else will as well.  Even if you do like your slides you should still ask yourself – “do I find this presentation useful?”  You should ask yourself the same question after you give the presentation.  Time is one of our most precious commodities, therefore we need to respect the time that the audience is giving us and make sure we give them something useful in exchange.


Problems – we face them everyday and yet so often we let them take control.  A dear friend has summed up, in one word, the process many of us go through when presented with adversity: “catastrophize” – the process of “making a mountain out of a mole hill.”

Most problems tend to be solvable rather quickly.  Instead of catastrophizing, try:

  1. Acknowledge the problem (panic briefly if necessary or therapeutic).
  2. Put the problem in perspective.
  3. Actively work on a solution.

Remember that panic is optional and no longer part of the process after step 1.

The Classic Wet Shave

Barber in BostonHow many billions of dollars are spent every year on modern shaving products – products designed to help you shave without tearing your face apart?  A new year – another blade added to the current “top-of-the-line” razor.  Granted, these razors from companies like Gillette and Schick are marvels of engineering and do decrease the number of nicks and cuts in the typical shave, but men have been shaving for hundreds, if not thousands, of years…

What happened?  Why has the morning ritual of shaving our faces become an exercise in misery?

In the 1940’s, the first brushless shave cream in a can was introduced.  Classic shave creams or soaps take time to use – you have to build a lather.  But the classic shave creams and soaps worked.  Canned shave creams gave you a “lather” without spending the time normally required of classical shave creams, but to this day no canned product comes close to the quality of the classic shave creams.  Our society sacrificed 10 min for burning skin and faces covered in bits of tissue paper.

The morning shave has always been a low point of my day.  My skin, like many, is extremely sensitive.  The typically morning shave was akin to running a cheese grater over my face.  Over the years I have tried pretty much every mainstream commercial shaving product.  Each iteration did result in a slightly better shave but each shave still ended in burning skin, cuts, and nicks.

“Enjoyable” is a word I had heard associated with shaving but could not believe.  More and more I had been hearing about the classic barbershop experience but I had yet to find a barbershop that offered such services as the “straight-razor” shave.  Also, I have to shave every morning and cannot go to the barbershop every day even if I could find one.

Shaving was not a big issue when I was a graduate student (some would argue that personal hygiene and graduate school are mutually exclusive.)  Returning to medical school, however, meant shaving everyday…

It turns out that there are a lot of guys (and gals) who share my frustrations.  And with all things internet, there are communities devoted to the intricacies of the classic men’s shave.  You can quickly become overwhelmed by everything that is out there, but after a little research it becomes clear that you can accomplish a classic wet shave with little effort.

I have yet to embrace the old-school razors.  In fact, even some Master Barbers like modern razors.  Instead, I chose to focus on the wet shave cream experience and use my modern razor (the Schick Hydro 5 – which I love.)  After acquiring an inexpensive badger brush and some Truefitt & Hill shave cream, I embarked on the classic wet shave experience.  Youtube is awash with classic wet shave instructional videos.  My favorite are those videos by Mantic59.

The result – my best shave.  No nicks or cuts, and the shave was closer than any I ever experienced.  Simply switching from a “shave in a can” to the “classic wet shave” made shaving…enjoyable.  It does add 10 minutes to my morning routine, but it is worth it!

There is a revitalization of the classic wet shave and there are more and more shops appearing in major cities.  There is a also a number of excellent websites devoted to classic shave education and products.  I am currently a big fan of The Gentlemens Refinery products, Truefitt & Hill, and Colonel Conk.  The GR and Truefitt & Hill are great places to start for shave creams and Colonel Conk has solid inexpensive badger brushes.

Regardless of what product or products you choose, the wet shave it worth trying.

My iPhone 4

There has been a lot of news over the past 4 weeks regarding the problems of the iPhone 4.

I pre-ordered an iPhone 4, and shortly thereafter was worried that I would receive a brick.  After 2 weeks of constant use, however, I am pleased to report that the iPhone 4 is … awesome!  The phone is MUCH faster than my iPhone 3G, the camera is great, the phone reception is much better, and I have yet to drop a call.  I do have a case, and maybe this is the magic juju that keeps me from dropping calls.  Still, I do not understand what all the fuss is about.

Green laser pointer

I gave a presentation at SIIM2010 last week and although the overall AV support was excellent, the laser pointer was horrible.  It was red and weak.  I should not complain, however, since I did

not bring my own laser pointer.  Red is a suboptimal color for pointing out something on a projected image.  Why?  Look at the sensitivity of the human eye to red.

Our eyes are not very sensitive to red but red laser pointers were the first mass produced laser pointer due to technical constraints.  Now, however, laser pointers are available in other colors and at a reasonable price.  Specifically, green laser pointers are available.  In the visible light spectrum, the human eye is most sensitive to green, thus a green laser pointer appears much brighter than a red laser pointer at the same power output.  Furthermore, green laser pointers are no longer prohibitively expensive.    Thus, if you plan to purchase a laser pointer, then consider a green laser pointer.

I have to give BestBuy some credit

BestBuy…the victim of many jokes. I would like to report, however, that I recently had a superb buying experience at Best Buy. After many years, I finally purchased a gaming console…sorry, a blue-ray player with Netflix streaming that could also be used to play a game now and then. 😉 Yes, I purchased a PlayStation3.

Although I researched the current state of gaming consoles, my knowledge of gaming consoles is fairly weak. Do I have to turn in my geek card? The PS3 seemed to be the best choice given my wants. So I went to our local Best Buy and asked a blue shirt for help purchasing a PS3. First, he was professional and knowledgeable. Everything he said matched data obtained during my research on gaming consoles, and he taught me things I did not know – which I later verified. 😉 He showed me various accessories that he felt could enhance my PS3 experience but did not push me into purchasing any of the items he recommended. He then started discussing games with me and after a few minutes suggested that he get one of his colleagues who had more knowledge. This really impressed me – he was willing to admit the limit of his knowledge and was willing to ask for help. The next blue shirt really knew his games and made some suggestions which I took. A few hours later, I really appreciated the suggestions as I played Call of Duty – World at War.

In short, I now have a more positive attitude toward the BestBuy experience.

Reflections on 3rd year of medical school

I did it.  I finished 3rd year of medical school.  Overall, it was one of the most enjoyable years of my education.

The 3rd year of medical school is the first time many medical students feel like they are a “physician” because, for many, it is the first time a student is assigned a patient.  This does not mean that you, as the medical student, are solely responsible for the individual.  There are a number of checks and balances to ensure patient safety.  But your team of residents, fellows, and staff does expect you to treat the individual you have been assigned as “your patient.”   The medical student is expected to know the patient’s history, test results, and current treatments.  Furthermore, most teams expect the medical student to have these bits of information about the patient on the tip of his or her tongue, ready to spout a needed piece of knowledge when asked.  This is a big change.  The medical student’s role changes from passive to active. Furthermore, the medical student is often asked to make recommendations regarding the care of the patient.  The team may agree or disagree, but the medical student’s opinion is expected.

The 3rd year of medical school is also where I understood the importance of being able to say, “I don’t know.”  A surgeon asked me a question at the beginning of third year to which I responded, “I think…”  The surgeon immediately cut me off and said, “do not think…KNOW.”  He was not being arrogant; he was reminding me about one of the critical aspects of patient care.  If someone asks you a lab value, test result, or a drug dose, the answer should never start with, “I think…”  If you are not sure, then say, “I do not know and will look that up.”  (This is why you quickly learn to have important patient facts written down and with you at all times.)

Learning how to say, “I do not know” if one of the most valuable lessons of medical school.  Actually, it is one of the most valuable lessons anyone can learn.  “Not knowing” is continually reinforced as a “bad thing” and there are certainly things that any medical student must know.  Worse than “not knowing”, however, is pretending that you do know.  This is how people get hurt.

Tools for the Wards

I am DONE with inpatient rotations for 3rd year (there is much rejoicing!)  Throughout the year, people asked me about some of the unique items that I carry around in my coat to help me out on the wards.  Here is what they are and were I got them.

  1. The White Coat clipboard – My classmate Dan Chan gets credit for introducing me to this foldable clipboard.  I am still wondering what I did before I had this thing.
  2. The best pen ever – Again, Dan Chan gets credit for introducing me to my favorite pen.
  3. Rayovac LED penlight – You can spend A LOT of money on penlights at medical stores that are of poor quality.  Instead, go to your local hardware store and pick up this beauty of a light.  Bright, well-built, and cheap – this pen light has been indispensable on countless occasions.
  4. Moleskine – You need something to write notes in…might as well use what Hemingway used.  Seriously, Moleskine makes the best notebooks/sketchbooks.

Bad PowerPoint = “Hypnotizing chickens”

Thank you Thomas X. Hammes.  This quote is one of the best descriptions of the effect of a badly designed PowerPoint presentation.  The quote originated from a great NY Times article about the use of PowerPoint in the military and the problems caused by the application.

An attempt was made to graphically represent what is required for stability in Afghanistan.  General McChrystal’s response to this slide was, “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war.”