By Joseph Horton, MD

(This is a follow up to Dr. Horton’s earlier blog Patience is the Hunter’s Greatest Weapon)

When I began my academic medical career, Chuck Kerber was with me when I was going over a talk I was about to give. I was understandably nervous about it. I set up the slides in the carousel, put them into the projectors—radiologists always used to use them in pairs—neuroradiologists did, anyway—and took out my talk to read. Kerber took it away from me and told me to start talking. I tried to get the pages back, but he held them. He then told me that, since I was the world’s expert on the material, I didn’t need to be nervous about it and that I should just present the information as if I were talking with someone.

I did that. Much to my pleasant surprise, not only did it work, but since then, I’ve only scripted a single talk that I’ve given: the commencement address that I gave at my old high school this past May. I read it, and I admit that it made me more nervous than any medical paper I’ve ever given.

Later, Kerber asked me to sit and listen to him go over a presentation he was about to give. He took out what he had written and held it well out of my reach. I could have killed him.

Bottom line: you should be an expert on something if you’re going to testify about it. If you need notes, you’re not an expert. And if someone else is testifying against you or someone you’re helping defend, see if they’re referring to anything.