As I write this month’s column, I am preparing to make the keynote speech at the Ohio Optometric Association’s amazing EastWest Eye Conference in lovely downtown Cleveland, Ohio. (My son-in-law, who grew up in Cleveland, made me say that last part.)

I have not spoken in public for many years, as I determined that preparing to speak made me crazy(ier). It was a lot easier to write this column and just fantasize that the readers were extremely entertained than it was to stand up in front of folks when there was a chance my biggest response would be the occasional snore. 

They asked. Not sure what got into me, but I said yes. Hmm. OK. Now, what to say?

If These Walls Could Talk (We Wouldn’t Have To)

I am not a person who is ever at a loss for words, except of course when someone wants me to get in front of a crowd to speak. Public speaking is a skill that every optometrist should gain. There is no better practice builder than getting up in front of a bunch of soccer moms and telling cute kid stories from your practice. As one of my OD mentors once prescribed, “the cornier the better.” 

Reminisce about that myopic kid who put on his first glasses and looked at his mom down the hallway and announced “Mom! You are pretty as a picture!” Tears will flow and your waiting room will grow. 

Join Toastmasters. Take night school classes. Read War and Peace cover-to-cover to your children, unless they clean up their rooms. Do whatever you have to do to get better at public speaking; it will pay off!

Any Last Words?

Now, the bad news. Public speaking is one of the top 10 greatest human fears. Recent studies rank Fear of Public Speaking at #6. This is just below #5, which encompasses the fear of spiders, rats, cockroaches, snakes, airplanes, monsters, demons, mirrors and the fear of high heels. It ranks just above # 7, the fear of death. 

You heard me right. People fear death less than people fear PUBLIC SPEAKING. 

By the time you read this, I guess my wonderful speech in Cleveland will be all finished. Hopefully, my colleagues there will have been entertained. Me? I’m working on my fear of high heels. Death? That’s nothing compared to making that speech. 

In optometric practice, we get a lot of practice handling fear. We have the fear of misdiagnosing, the fear of the lawsuit that may follow, the fear that a patient won’t like his new glasses, and, of course, the fear that we will have to leave late for our lunch hour, our greatest fear of all. 

When fear grips your soul and that patient who hates you but will never leave your practice shows up to give you his or her hour of pain, just remember that it could be worse; you could have to wear high heels or make a speech in Cleveland. Death? That’s a piece of cake.

On a serious note, I’d like to take this opportunity to salute the career of a wonderful colleague and friend to all, Dr. Frank Fontana. Uncle Frank was always very kind to me and I am very grateful for his words of wisdom, his hugs and his humor. Uncle Frank inspired me to be better. Rest easy, my friend.