I have been a public speaker for most of my 45 years in Dentistry. For the last 35 years I have been giving presentations to dental audiences all over the country. I have a divine mission to help my dental colleagues because of the unique gift I was given. This gift is priceless, and it is my duty to share it with others—especially since so many of my colleagues are having difficulty with crown and bridgework. What is the gift? It is the training I received from Dr. Elliot Feinberg, my father and mentor in conjunction with the knowledge that I have accumulated during the course of my career. My father was an absolute master in full mouth rehabilitation and full coverage restorative dentistry who was way ahead of his time. He was definitely on the path that full coverage restorative dentistry needs to take.
My father was also a larger-than-life public speaker. He was admired for his speaking ability and charisma. I cowered in his presence whenever I was called upon to speak. I was a terrible speaker. But my dad once confided in me that he wasn’t always a great speaker. Most speaking skills are acquired and not genetically pre-determined. Ralph Waldo Emerson once remarked that “All the great speakers were bad speakers at first.”
I became a full-fledged dentist at the tender age of 24. I was as shy as a deer in the headlights and deathly afraid of speaking in front of crowds. I joined my father in practice the following year and was immediately enrolled in the Ninth District Dental Association. Of course, being my father’s son, dental association officers naturally expected me to be a speaking prodigy. This notion couldn’t have been further from the truth. No sooner had I joined the Ninth District Dental Association, I was “volunteered” for the Membership Committee. In my first year I contributed absolutely nothing. Despite this fact, the officers made me made chairman of the entire Committee the very next year—despite the lack of evidence that I was even competent! Horrors! I was forced to rise to the occasion because I didn’t want to be an embarrassment. I guess it worked because I remained chairman of the Membership Committee for the next 17 years.
As Membership Chair, it was my duty to give an orientation to New Members joining the Ninth in order to enlighten them about the Dental Association and make them feel welcome. The orientations took place at evening Board meetings in an adjacent room. It was the custom for the Membership chair to whisk several officers and board members away from the meeting and deposit them in front of the new members. Once there they would talk about various aspects of the association. I did not feel comfortable with this arrangement, because I knew exactly squat about the Dental Association. I could not even answer the most basic questions new members would ask. I hated getting up in front of them to speak because I was so unprepared.
I had to do something because the status quo was simply intolerable. I came up with the idea to create a Membership Slide Carousel that covered all aspects of the tripartite association—national, state and local. My committee members and I created 100 posters that told the story of the association. In those days there were no computers, so presentations were conducted with slides that were organized in carousels. I remember that Dr. Don Einbinder, the Ninth’s photographer, met me one day at Ninth Headquarters to photograph the slides. I hung each poster on the wall and he photographed it. Later we added some slides that were professionally fabricated.
When the slide carousel was complete, I arranged for the new members to be inducted during the general meeting luncheons instead of the evening Board meetings. I introduced the new members individually to their new colleagues. They had the opportunity to experience the Ninth’s first-rate continuing education program and camaraderie. I gave that presentation so many times that I quickly became great at giving it. Once I felt confident and prepared, I began to love doing the new member orientations and I looked forward to them! It’s funny how a little preparation and practice can make such a huge difference.
Speaking about membership to speaking about other topics was not such a great leap. I started giving presentations at study group meetings, Rotary club meetings, BNI meetings, Chamber of Commerce meetings—you name it. I have given hundreds of presentations and I strive to make each one different. I don’t like giving canned presentations. I developed my own unique style and I’m always honing my craft. I want each presentation to be unique–and an improvement over the one that preceded it.
My friends and colleagues are amazed that I am able to give 6-hour presentations and still not cover all the material that I bring with me. “Do you ever get nervous?” they ask. Most of them cannot even imagine giving such presentations. Jerry Seinfeld jokes that fear of public speaking (aka glossophobia) is the number one fear—and people are more afraid of speaking in front of crowds than they are afraid of death! It is the number two fear on internet—fear of flying is number one.
So, do I get nervous? The answer is “Heck Yes!!!!” If I wasn’t a little bit nervous, I wouldn’t be any good. The nervousness happens because I deeply care! I desperately want my audience to get the most out of what I have to show them. I want them to take information home that they can use immediately in their practices. And most of all I want my presentation to be a “hit” in their eyes.
Once I get up on the podium, the nervous feeling vanishes, and I relax. I like that feeling of having the audience in the palm of my hand, riveted to my every word. I know they have NEVER before seen what I am showing them and that they are seeing what they never thought was possible. The sheer number of cases I show with X-Ray follow-up over decades is mind-blowing! No speaker I know of shows this level of documentation. The cases support the basic principles taught in the ONWARD Program and span the breath of my career and my father’s career—more than 70 years!
Robert Moment—the author of How to Succeed in Life, believes that “fear of public speaking can be overcome with effective public speaking tips, skills and strategies.” He is right. To hone my craft, I have taken numerous courses in speaking and presentation skills. I learned a great deal from Vanessa Emerson’s Dental Speaker Conferences, and she introduced me to amazing speakers on every imaginable aspect of dental speaking.
While I have had instruction from many great speakers —two stand in front as having made the most impact on me. Mark LeBlanc, who runs a speaking business based in Minnesota (https://www.markleblanc.com/), connects intimately with each individual in his audience. Mark is the only dental speaker–in all my years of attending continuing education courses–that received a thunderous standing ovation (without asking for one). Carl Buechner once said that the audience “may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” That is so true. I want desperately to connect with my colleagues on an emotional as well as intellectual plane. I include human-interest stories about the patients whose cases I am showing—after all, they are real human beings whose stories have touched me emotionally. Currently I meet online every month with Patricia Fripp, a brilliant and renowned speaker (and also a former NSA president), who has a fantastic teaching website (https://fripp.com/). She taught me a great deal about how to open, structure and close a presentation. Thanks to her I am a better speaker. Naturally I am a huge fan of hers!
My mission is to reach as many dental practitioners as possible and give them the priceless gift that was given to me. I created a teaching website with some colleagues—www.theONWARDprogram.com—that allows me to connect through the internet with colleagues all over the world. I strive for continual improvement of this site and I’m adding courses to the 30 courses I have already created. This blog is part of the website—and all my previous blogs are posted there. A forum—currently under construction—will allow website members to share content and discuss cases. I intend to post cases there regularly to stimulate discussion.
While I love creating internet courses, I most enjoy giving “live” presentations. There’s something about connecting with a live audience that is most exhilarating! It is my ultimate goal to be on the “circuit.” But breaking into the “circuit” has proven to be extremely difficult—despite having made great connections by having served on 4 ADA Councils and despite all the great reviews and evaluations that I have received.
It is frustrating to me that I don’t get the attention I should be receiving from meeting planners. It is clear that I have the information that dentists desperately need. I would like the meeting planners to understand that it is critically important for dentists to develop great crown and bridge skills as well as great implant skills. There is an absolute epidemic of tooth extraction and implant placement because dentists are not confident with crown and bridge skills. Implants are being overused and used inappropriately. I understand that implant courses are extremely popular, but it is so important that dentists not settle for being “one-trick” ponies because it is easy and lucrative instead of offering the best possible treatment for each patient. There is, after all, no “one size fits all.”
I regularly market myself to meeting planners, but my name is still not “household.” It is my observation that meetings regularly feature the same speakers. I get it. I am a meeting planner as well as a speaker. I served on the American Dental Association’s Council on ADA Sessions, the Ninth District Dental Association’s Programs Committee, and the Greater New York Dental Meeting’s committee. I currently participate on the Arizona Dental Association’s Annual Sessions Council.
Meeting planners often play it safe with circuit speakers because they want to ensure that their meetings will be successful and well-attended. However, they still need to expand the horizons of their attendees. It is important for the future of the profession that dentists everywhere hear what I have to say. I am now going to speak through the largest megaphone that I have:
Attention Meeting Planners: I have the “goods on the shelf” and I can fill in at a moment’s notice should I be needed. I am worthy of your consideration, and I promise to deliver a presentation that will not be forgotten.
Become the best practitioner in full coverage restorative dentistry that you can be! Don’t settle! Join the ONWARD program and learn how to do crown and bridgework with excellence and confidence, how to save “hopeless” teeth, and how to provide new options for patient treatment that you never thought of. Visit the website and join here: https://theonwardprogram.com/membership/
Dr. Feinberg is also available to give presentations. His CV and speaker packet is posted on the website. (https://theonwardprogram.com/about-dr-feinberg/) Dr. Feinberg can be reached at info@theONWARDprogram.com.