Reflections from the Front: a Kinder, Gentler Face
Bob Cranston, MD
Last month in Deerfield at CBHD’s 19th Annual Summer Conference, Paige Cunningham, Executive Director of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity introduced Dr. Charmaine Yoest, President of Americans United for Life, and listed a number of venues in which she had spoken winsomely to a less than receptive audience. As she concluded her introduction, she said that Dr. Yoest had built many bridges, and represented “The kinder, gentler face of the Pro-Life Movement”. What a tribute to a talented woman who stands on and for her principles daily, yet maintains collegial relationships with many who are diametrically opposed to her philosophical and spiritual tenets.
Yesterday, along with several colleagues I lectured to a group of doctors who aspire to improving their educational presentations. We told them that when speaking to outside audiences, to best relate to listeners, they were to focus on: 1) patients first, 2) their institution second, 3) their specific discipline third, and lastly, 4) themselves.
Specific tips and pointers included: 1) respect your audience, 2) use fewer slides and speak more slowly, (no more than 1 slide per minute, optimally two minutes per slide), 3) use fewer words per slide, (28 point font or larger), 4) allow time for questions, 5) gauge and speak to the level of knowledge of your listeners, 6) engage your audience, 7) don’t feel embarrassed or stymied if you don’t know the answer to every question, but promise and then get back to your listeners with more complete answers as soon as possible, 8) repeat important concepts, and 9) leave them with your business card—a way to get back to you with ongoing or further questions in the days and weeks ahead.
As I reflect on these principles, and Paige Cunningham’s description of Dr. Yoest, I am certain that she employs these and similar techniques in her public speaking, even as we all should when we represent Christian Bioethics and Christ himself to those who speak loudest against all we hold dear. As we focus on the needs of our listeners, the wonders of our Christ, the beauty of his church, and lastly on ourselves, we should show great respect, use fewer words, know and engage our listeners in real dialogue, be unafraid of not having all the answers, and keep the door open for ongoing conversation. We should all aspire to be the kinder, gentler, face of Jesus.