[Editor's Note: This is a guest post from my friend Nathaniel Minnick, DO FACEP. We had him on the podcast a little while back and he has lectured a few times at the ACEP Scientific Assembly on financial topics. We have no financial relationship.]
I met the White Coat Investor in Las Vegas during the ACEP Scientific Assembly (SA) in 2016. My panel discussion, “Don’t Get Fired, Don’t Go Broke, Don’t Get Sued” had ended, and he walked up to shake my hand as the crowd cleared. Hours earlier, I had checked my inbox in the speaker ready-room and read an email from him stating that it was great that ACEP allowed me to give financial talks. A common link between us is that I work in Virginia where he used to moonlight. He asked if I wanted to write a guest post about speaking on a large stage, and how to get onto that stage in the first place.
Educating Doctors on the Basics of Finance
The genesis for lecturing on finances started in residency. After reading the Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing in my third year, I prepared a lecture for my classmates and attendings that served as the template for my future talks. I began with what I knew from a stock market education that began courtesy of my father when I was ten years old. I then took the retirement concepts that I learned from the Guide and created a two-hour talk to inform people of the basics. The lecture was well received. I emailed other residency programs in the hospital and wedged my way into the internal medicine morning report twice. On all occasions, attendings asked more questions than the residents, which revealed the weak points of financial awareness. Future incarnations of the lecture buttressed the frequently questioned portions and eschewed 201-level concepts.
I now work in a community ED with a few residencies. After taking boards, I got back onto the noon lecture circuit and continued talking. Depending on my stylistic preference at the time, fonts and backgrounds change, but the meat of the lecture remains the same.
My health system operates as an employed medical group. Each month, the newly hired providers go through an orientation week. At some point it dawned on me to ask administration if I could give the lecture there as well. They agreed. This provided more practice.
ACEP sends an email out to its members each year asking for speaker and topic suggestions for the upcoming SA. I suspect most members delete it, as we get daily briefings from ACEP and get overloaded. The first time I realized this email existed, I responded. Months later I received an acceptance email. ACEP SA’s previous finance lectures were titled with retirement year foci, listed like target date funds. Apologies to the previous speakers, but many of them didn’t educate; many discussed inflation, the amount needed to retire, and other topics that didn’t provide the basis for, “Do this, because then this happens,” education. And this is what physicians need because inflation is a 201-level concept. Physicians don’t know what a Roth IRA is and the tax implications for Roth designated accounts. I decided to start there and deal with inflation later.
9 Tips for Successful Financial Lecturing
1) Get to Know Your Society
Obviously, read your society’s daily briefs and look for a “Submit your idea” heading. Consider emailing one of the coordinators or directors of the annual meeting. Hope that they have the forward-looking vision of non-clinical lectures like ACEP did.
2) Stick to the Basics
For anyone who already presents personal finance talks to any physician group, all of our slideshows are probably similar. We likely cover the Roth definition with examples, disability insurance, index funds, and some student loan thoughts. I avoid discussion of inflation, estate planning, or portfolio design. Educate people on the most basic principles. When some of my SA reviews stated that my finance talk was “too simple,” I took that as a victory. As a physician society, if a 101-style lecture was universally booed for being “too basic,” then we’ve reached critical mass. It means that next year we go with 201, like portfolio design complexities, REITS, and intermediate tax discussion.
3) The Presentation
If you don’t have a slideshow prepared, borrow presentation techniques from others. The Thousandaire’s Roth IRA video provides the basis for what I use when I go through the basics of retirement accounts. Many White Coat Investor articles can be morphed into slide form.
4) The Slides
In order to present well, you need to wield your slides to your advantage. How to Present Like Steve Jobs must be read prior to slide creation. Whatever you do, don’t read from your slides. Put as few words as possible. “One more thing,” isn’t an easy concept to master, but keeping slides in the background to guide your talk separates professional speakers from rookies who read blocks of text. No more than seven words per line. No more than 3-5 lines per slide.
Edward Tufte is a Powerpoint critic. His arguments against Powerpoint’s format provide practices to avoid in order to enhance audience-speaker cohesion.
6) Q & A Practice
Practicing your talk holds importance, but handling questions goes farther. The only way to get question and answer practice is to give your talk in any venue you can find. Make your Powerpoint (or Keynote) slides and go forth. For each question asked, figure out how to edit your slides and speech to prevent that question from ever being asked again.
7) YOU Are the Expert
When you get on a big stage, remember that people are paying to watch you, the expert. It’s not an audition. Presenting to an international audience recording my voice for perpetual use wasn’t as stressful as I anticipated because it was the same lecture I gave many times before. I believe I’m an expert in the field, and this eases the tension of public speaking. Realize that you are the attraction, and people spent money for you to teach them. If you read off of your slides, you are not an expert, just someone who can read.
8) My Secret Tip
My secret (delusional?) tip to get a finance talk accepted at a big meeting, and this may knock me out of the running for future SA’s, is to lead the submission with the finance talk and then devolve into weirdness. ACEP’s submission format allows for multiple presentation topics listed on one form. For the first choice, I put “Personal Finance for the Young Attending,” then, “Student Loans” as a second lecture choice. I add a few more finance topics before putting in the talks that I would absolutely love to give but never expect to be accepted. Those would be “Mickey’s 10 Commandments as an Emergency Physician,” and “Lessons From the Creative Industry To Improve Your ED.” If you are in an administrative role, read Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. It is a great management book. Jay Kaplan gave a patient satisfaction lecture at this year’s SA that referenced Disney customer service. I feel like it’s only a matter of time until I get my version accepted. I focused on Disney parks in undergraduate art history (ie architecture, commodity culture, place-making), so it’s a tough dream to kill.
I think that the SA coordinators recognize the knowledge gap of personal finance. Dr. Dahle paved the way with his ACEP Now column. The SA coordinators are advanced enough to realize this is a critical area. [Submit your topics, but stack the odds that the finance talks are the more valuable subjects. Put your hobby lectures last. Be prepared to actually give the hobby lecture if they accept it. Then write a guest post here about how you got your hobby lecture accepted at a national venue.]
9) Talk Openly About Real Money
Finally, and this doesn’t have as much relevance to public speaking, but don’t be afraid to talk about real money. When in physician-only circles, we need to drop the social taboo to not talk about money. It perpetuates our lack of financial IQ. If physicians talk more openly about finances with each other, we can learn our individual mistakes, strengths, and misinformation.
What do you think? How have you tried to educate friends and colleagues about personal finance? Have you ever thought of taking that passion for educating docs to a stage? Comment below!