Digital Smile Design - Aug 20, 2020

Understanding The Speakers’ Chart

Understanding The Speakers’ Chart

In a recent episode of Coffee Break with Coachman, Christian Coachman and Dr Tony Rotondo, Specialist Prosthodontist and Educator from Brisbane, discussed the importance of becoming more critical as dentists of lectures, while also improving their own presentation skills.

Part of the interview focused on a graphic created by Christian and Tony in collaboration with each other on this important topic. Known as the Speakers’ Chart, this blog post explains its design, purpose and how to use it. 

After being inspired by a diagram which organized media outlets by the quality of their content and level of conservatism, Dr Tony Rotondo started thinking about how this could apply to the lecturing circuit in dentistry. He came up with a diagram that would assess lecturers by not only their academic and clinical skill, but their skill as a speaker to entertain and inspire those listening. 

From here, Christian Coachman created a second chart to evaluate and score speakers based on five key factors: Educational Quality, Entertaining Quality, Clinical Quality, Useful Information and Bias/ ethics/ ego. Read their full discussion below to understand how to use and interpret the diagrams, as well as to see some classic examples of dental speakers.

Tony Rotondo 

“I remember seeing the previous chart and I found it really interesting. I thought to myself, the press in dentistry are the speakers and teachers and lecturers out there, and I thought really it's exactly the same with the people in dentistry, except that they have different sorts of parameters that influence or bias the type of speaker that they were. I guess the couple of things that I thought of is that you have some teachers that are great academics and maybe not such good clinicians. You have great clinicians that typically aren't necessarily great academics, and they both have their place. The golden zone is the teacher that's both a great academic and a great clinician, and of course there are very few of those. Someone like Didier comes to mind because he covers both pathways and there are a few others but they're relatively rare.

And beyond that, then there was the issue of how biased people were in dentistry. And in my experience, speakers are typically biased by either a technique or a product, or maybe some money that they want to generate one way or another. Those were the things that to me seemed to bias the different speakers that I've listened to. And once again the golden zone are the people at the top that are not biased by technique, product or money so they really are pure information. At the top and the middle is where the best speakers would typically be.

And then if you move further down the chart, there are some people that are biased by a technique or a product but are able to separate themselves from that and be quite impartial.

There are other people that are biased by a technique or a product. They're unable to be impartial, but still have a message that's worth listening to because their technique or the product is of inherent value. That was sort of interesting. And then towards the bottom, you get people that are so biased that they would sell their mother's soul to the devil.

And then the other parameter that I thought played a big role in how good someone can teach was how easy they were to listen to. Some people are articulate, they're entertaining and they know how to deliver a message. And once again, that's a really rare group. And if you can put that, the lack of bias, good academic knowledge, great clinician, all of those things together, you have the perfect speaker.

And further down the list, you have people that are dry, but still know how to teach. I mean, that would be your classic university kind of lecturer. Articulate, entertaining, but can't get beyond show and tell. I mean, these are people that probably spend more time aspiring to teach rather than being able to teach.”

Christian Coachman 

“I see many courses nowadays online about how to become a better speaker. And that's very powerful now, very important as we know. But I think that beyond and more important than how to improve your speaking skills, something that is key for education is how to put the story together. These are two different things. You can be a great speaker or you can be somebody that is a great story producer. Even in the movie industry, these two things are completely different. You have the actor and you have the person that builds the story. And you need both.

In dentistry, you already mentioned that your diagram started with two of the most important things. Education skills, you call it great academics, clinical skills – meaning I do it, so I know how to do it, so I probably know how to share what I do. We have this situation where we have great teachers that are not great clinicians. And you have great clinicians that are not great teachers. As you already mentioned, it's very hard to have both.

On top of that you have:

  • The entertainment quality, which is different to teaching quality. 
  • The topic itself – how useful the topic is, regardless of the speaker. 
  • Ethics – the bias situation. 

And all of these things are impacting the quality of the time you're going to spend listening to that speaker.

Based on what you did, I called you to say, ‘Tony, we need to do a webinar. We need to talk about this. This is good.’ 

As an educator, I love graphics. I love recipes. I love visuals. I love ways to bring a speech into something that people can look at to facilitate the take-home message. 

What I tried to do, inspired by your graphic, was to create another graphic. This is what I want to share now. And we are going to discuss this a little bit more in depth, because we don't want to just point fingers over here. We want to actually provide some suggestions. The good part is when you say, okay, we need to criticize to actually understand what is not going right, but then come out with some things to improve the process.”


How to evaluate a lecture/ speaker 


A lecture is composed of four major qualities:

  1. Education quality
    Understanding how to organize and present an idea in an educational way, focusing on the learning experience with communication and audiovisuals to present clear thoughts and a clear take-home message.

  2. Your clinical experience or clinical quality
    Using documentation skills and audiovisuals to present great clinical work, execution and outcomes.

  3. Entertainment quality
    Using charisma, communication skills and audiovisuals to make people have fun.

  4. Useful information
    Presenting a very useful new idea, finding, technique or technology.

“The fifth aspect of the graphic is ethics, ego, bias. I put these three together because they're kind of mixed. Bias and ethics. 

Usually, as a speaker, you often lose quality because of your ego. I believe that these three factors go hand in hand. I suggest, with this diagram, to evaluate people from the outer circle to the center, improving quality in the four parameters as well as the 3D dimension going up. 

Imagine that this disk, the circle, is repeated multiple times on the vertical dimension, and you can go up and down with all the four qualities and bring them into this dimension. 

I simplify this with three levels. Low quality, medium quality, high quality. And we have these five parameters. You can go from zero up to two: two is the highest quality and zero is the lowest quality. Now, my first question to you, Tony, is, do you think these five parameters should get equal value or should we change it?”


Tony Rotondo 

“I guess it depends on why you're attending the lecture. If you're a dentist attending a lecture and you want to get something out of it that you can take home, then maybe entertaining quality isn't of that great a value. It's educational quality, clinical quality, and that the information is useful. 

Having said that, people do like to be entertained, and if the speaker is entertaining, it probably has the potential to make a powerful message. But I would say that's a little less important than the other three.”

Christian Coachman

“I think you nailed it. You just made me think about something. The importance for each one of the five topics is you, even before you go into the lecture, deciding, ‘Today, I feel like being entertained. I'm conscious that I'm going to go in and I'm going to be a hundred percent entertained and not necessarily learn anything.’ The key is to make a conscious decision beforehand. 

When you are evaluating these five, you need to be the one distributing the five topics into 10 points. If you are like, "I need to learn more about intraoral scanning." That my topic, of course, you need to find a lecture that is talking about intraoral scanning, and that's going to be much more valuable than an amazing lecture about crown lengthening which is not the topic that you want to learn today. You can put more points on useful information, less points on the clinical quality, for example.”


How to evaluate a dental speaker: common examples

Speaker one

Christian Coachman

“Speaker number one. This is what I see the most in the top academies. Amazing clinicians showing off their amazing cases. Relatively useful information, because the cases are more important than the information, that is wrong. Little educational skill, because they are not trained to be teachers, they are just clinicians. Most of them have no entertaining skills because they didn't invest time to be an entertainer. But since they don't own a company, they don't own the software, they're not talking about their own technique, the bias was not important, or the bias was important because they actually invented a clinical surgical procedure that they are talking about, and they didn't really emphasize that before the lecture. That's the reason I'm giving zero to bias.”

Tony Rotondo 

“I think it's a fair generalization that good clinicians, and certainly something I'm guilty of myself, good clinicians will tend to lecture about things that they're strong at and techniques that they're comfortable with. But they tend to have a bias towards the clinical techniques that they use and get results with. And that's okay but it might mean that they're not necessarily delivering the full spectrum of techniques in that particular area.”

Christian Coachman

“To understand bias, you need to see if the technique described in the lecture synopsis is the speaker's baby. Because if it's the speaker's baby, we know there's bias there. Even if the disclaimer is there, there's bias.”

Tony Rotondo 

“That's all okay, provided that as a member of the audience you understand that.”

Christian Coachman 

“Exactly. As long as you understand that, that's fine. You understand that the guy is passionate about that way of doing it because he invented it.”

Tony Rotondo

“As a younger audience member - and I'm sure you feel the same way - you would listen to those people and think, ‘Oh my God, that's the only way that this can be done.’”

Christian Coachman 

“There was a comment here, the difference between teaching and preaching. Teaching or preaching is a good indicator.”

Tony Rotondo 

“There’s a similar saying that I really love, and it's ‘Follow those that seek the truth, not those that have found it’.”

Christian Coachman 

“By the way, all the lectures are fine. As you said, if you made a conscious decision beforehand and if you have a fair interpretation afterwards of what you just listened to.”


Speaker two

Christian Coachman

“Speaker number two. I also give a score of four (from zero to 10 a score of four). A very common speaker, very entertaining lecture. Nowadays, we have dentists that are becoming really professional entertainers. But very commonly, the information is not very useful at all. There's no learning experience, no real education. There are some decent cases because nowadays almost everybody learns how to take some cool pictures. And of course in a year of work, you can pick two or three nice cases with nice photos. Having a few nice cases means very little nowadays. On top of that, great entertaining skills, but at the end of the day, you finish that one-hour, two-hour lecture and you think to yourself in a critical way, ‘What did I learn in order to start Monday morning and change something in myself?’ And many times, there's nothing there. That is example number two.”

Tony Rotondo 

“It’s a great person to listen to at the end of the day when you've experienced six or eight score speakers.”

Christian Coachman

“Yes, yes. That's true. That's true. Just to end the day with good entertainment. 

Now all the bias here, the bias that I gave to example one, when you lose bias, when you lose points on bias/ ethics it’s because you either didn't disclaim - this is the worst - you didn't disclaim, you consciously or unconsciously hide it from the beginning, you need to disclaim, or because it's just your baby. And even if you disclaim: ‘I was the one who developed…’, people in the audience need to filter in the fact that you have an emotional connection with that topic. And that's fine. It's like me talking about DSD. If I'm going to talk about DSD, and I make it very clear in the title, learn DSD, and you're going to learn DSD, you understand that I'm super excited because I was the one who started the process or whatever. This is something conscious. It's fine.

The other thing is when the ego takes control. And that's a problem, a very common problem that I try to really avoid when I'm speaking. By the way, when I'm on scientific podiums, I don't even mention brands, not even my brand. This is a given. Sometimes people call me, ‘Christian, we want to invite you to this important scientific congress. Please don't talk about your company or products.’ I actually get a little bit offended by that because if you go to all my lectures, I never, ever even mentioned the names and the brands, even when it's proper to mention them, I don't, because it's a scientific podium. You're not there to talk about commercial products and services. So that's a given. That's a given.”


Speaker Three

“Now speaker three. By the way, six is very good in my rating. 10 is almost impossible. Eight is amazing. Six is very, very good. Above five, you are in a decent, very, very good lecture. A lecture with very useful information, meaning the information that the speaker is talking about matches your needs. It's something that we really need to incorporate or improve. 

It's a speaker who is talking about something useful with good educational skills, with some proper training on how to organize their thoughts and thought process, decision-making etc. Average in entertaining quality because it's hard to be good at everything. And average clinical cases because it's not the most important thing in teaching to have great clinical cases. A good disclaimer, high level. This case here, I'm giving as an example somebody that is sponsored by a company, that's why bias is low.”

Tony Rotondo

“Or even who works for a company. Typically, some of the scientists in some of those big companies are incredibly worthwhile lecturers. They're great to listen to but the bias is there.”

Christian Coachman

“An example – a good teacher, a good scientist who works for a company or is sponsored by a company, so you're going to have a great topic, great education, not necessarily entertaining charisma, but completely biased. You still get a great rating of six over there.”


Speaker four

“Speaker number four.  A very good one because they have great educational skills, really prepared. How to become a great teacher. The information is useful. It's relevant. It's not trying to reinvent the wheel. Decent clinical cases, proper entertainment, no conflict, meaning you can trust the information. So that for me is number eight. That's a good example. If you go to a lecture of Tony’s. Great skills and explanations. Usually you talk about useful information because you depend on your clinic. You talk about what has worked for your patients. You don't have ego, so you're not showing off. You have your ego under strict control.”

Tony Rotondo 

“Everyone has an ego. And the most difficult thing that I personally find is trying to isolate myself from that and remind myself constantly that I'm there for the audience.”

To learn more, read the full conversation between Christian Coachman and Dr Tony Rotondo from Coffee Break with Coachman. 


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