This belief was put to the test this past summer when I was invited to present at the annual meeting of the Fertility Society of Australia (FSA) in Hobart, Tasmania. While I typically would jump at the chance to deliver an invited presentation, this one came with a couple of caveats: 1) I would need to deliver three presentations, two of which were keynote addresses to over 500 attendees, and 2) I would need to have the presentations completed and ready to go in 6 weeks.
These challenges gave me pause – but in my heart I knew I would say yes. Opportunity was knocking at my door and I didn’t want to turn it away.
This summer, I read Alan Alda’s new book about the power of communication. In it, he discusses techniques to help scientists share information in ways that connect with audiences. One of the most effective methods is through the power of story. Here was a great opportunity to use this idea! When creating my slides, I used less text, more visual images, and during the presentation, integrated the scientific knowledge we have about the fertility journey into a relatable story.
The conference also presented opportunities to highlight the psychological impact of fertility treatment on couples, women, and men. Because the attendees consisted primarily of fertility doctors, embryologists, nurses, and counselors, I could help providers better understand the stresses. If I did my job right, I could share information that could improve patient care, as well as advocate for patients by giving voice to their concerns and needs.
Another principle of effective communication I learned from Alda’s book was to simplify complex ideas into easily rememberable themes. When discussing the male perspective on fertility treatments, I created the idea of the four I’s: Invite, Involve, Inform, and Intervene. I encouraged participants to use these strategies to help bring men from the periphery of the treatment process to the center where they are better able to contribute as active participants.
In addition to an amazing conference, I want to comment a bit about the Australian people. If there was any one thing I left the country with, it was the lasting impression of just how sincere, warm, and accepting everyone was. Their openness and unguarded nature left me feeling a sense of connection to not only the people I talked with, but the country as a whole.
Australian’s are also fun! During the conference, the organizers rented out a modern art gallery one evening. During the 30-minute ferry ride, one of my colleagues told me that every year a live band plays while the attendees dance wildly to the music. Sure, I thought – doctors and academics dancing wildly! But I clearly underestimated what she said. After we toured the museum, a live band began to play popular 80s Australian music from INXS to Midnight Oil. As my colleagues ran to the dance floor, I began to see what she was talking about. I hesitated for a minute or two – but here was another opportunity. I could say yes and join the party or play it safe and sit on the sidelines. I was not going to let the opportunity pass. So I joined them and we spent the next 2 hours dancing like there was no tomorrow. I can easily say it was the most fun I have had in a very long time!
Opportunity is a brief visitor – we have to remember to open the door quickly or it will find another door to knock on. So, the next time opportunity presents itself, say yes! I’m so glad I did – and I think you will be too.