Guest post on vegemite and presentations

In  the next in an ever increasing group of guest posts is a piece from Cian McDermott a friend and collaborator working in Melbourne, Australia. Cian has taken up the challenge of improving his presentation and gives his view on the issues he faced in delivering a presentation and how that relates to vegemite, leftover brewers’ yeast extract.


What do Vegemite and FAST have in common?

That was my question to our ED registrars to kick off a morning ultrasound teaching session.

vegemite and presentations

I had scoured the neighbourhood corner stores in search of a tube of Vegemite (despite being an Australian culinary obsession, Vegemite in a tube can be surprisingly difficult to track down). At this point, I brandished it from my pocket for maximal dramatic effect to the unwitting and still sleepy junior doctors. Ta da! This was my rather feeble attempt at a STAR moment (something they will always remember) to enhance active audience engagement and get them to sit up and take notice of my message. Like many others and for as long as I can remember, I have been nervous when speaking in public, especially to a medical audience. I guess this may be because we view ourselves as teachers (therefore liable to be judged and evaluated by our peers) and not a presenter, on stage to tell a convincing story. 

Keen to try out some more p cubed skills, guided along the way by Ross and #htdap, I volunteered to talk at an event – Mayo Clinic Social Media and Healthcare Summit, in my adopted hometown of Melbourne

I had done my preparation – spent lots of time doodling with a pencil and paper storyboarding my first thoughts. I find slide design fun so this step was quick and it evolved alongside P1. P3 is my personal snakepit. I wanted to make sure that my performance was as smooth as possible so the message resonated and was not deflected. In the weeks leading up to the talk, I had delivered the presentation first in front of our cat Harry then graduated to a lecture theatre at my hospital before my colleagues. I even tracked down a voice coach to help with stage presence. A series of improv classes I hoped would help make me freer and looser on stage. On the morning of the event I sneaked away to the bathroom cubicle to indulge in some power posing to drain away my nerves

In the end, it was the audience reaction that caught me completely by surprise.

A kind stranger came to me at lunch to tell me that my talk was her “lightbulb moment”. This has never happened to me before! Maybe the way I told the story had actually influenced someone. Maybe the message had actually resonated with the audience?

There is a certain feeling of honour and humility when your spoken quotes and slides hum and dance live on the conference twitter feed. Next time I am privileged to speak, I want to switch on more lightbulbs. It is a truly awesome feeling knowing that the way you present may change the minds of others

Back to Vegemite. So (oops! – a tip from my voice coach, “so” is a word we should not use as it places an invisible barrier between us and the audience). What do Vegemite and emergency department ultrasound have in common? Both of them have the potential to be a terrible experience if you are not shown how to use them properly. I warned you it was a bad joke! But maybe it helped make the message stick?

(Disclaimer: the Vegemite pun is courtesy of @EricLevi)


Thanks to Cian for his honesty and insights. I added the tweet to highlight the perceived p cube value of his talk. It isn’t easy giving a great presentation, but nothing valuable ever is easy. If you want to develop your presentation skills you can. Even if you don’t like Vegemite.


  1. Simon

    Thanks to you both.
    Always reassuring to know my own efforts in P3 are mirrored with those I deem to be experts. I’m addicted to honing my skills, the stage buzz & the feedback.
    Great to meet you at ICS SOA Ross & I look forward to meeting you Cian in Manchester at the CCS US course in April next year.
    Simon (@sonophysio)

    1. Cian Brendan McDermott

      Thanks Simon, appreciate your kind comments!



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.