Best Face Forward
When I was invited to represent Singapore at a Chinese conference in Hangzhou, I got to work immediately. With the help of my colleagues, I put together a great slide deck for my Chinese lectures. And then I thought, other than having awesome content, I should definitely make an effort to look great. So I had eyelash extensions put in a week before & packed my favorite red lipstick.
Look Ma, No Eyelashes
What I didn’t count on was this. The day before, I went out on a yacht where strong winds tore through my lashes, sending half of them into the sea. A disaster I had no time to fix.
Also, I did not anticipate how exhausted I was going to be, traveling on the red eye flight after an excruciating shift. I must’ve given the Chinese liaison lady a fright at the airport. When she saw my wrinkly & wan face, she immediately arranged for a therapeutic massage. After the excellent session, I emerged rejuvenated. Unfortunately, I now had deep towel marks all over my face. Marks that would have gone away instantly back in the day. With the loss of youth, comes loss of skin elasticity and consequently, some dignity.
A Toast To You, And You, And You
As I walked to the conference venue, wishing I had an iron for my forehead, I discovered the Chinese professors had booked me for lunch before my lecture. Nobody entertains like the gracious Chinese. My goodness, the lunch spread was as sumptuous as a grand banquet dinner. Not to mention, the Chinese custom of toasting everyone on the table with wine. I have never drunk so much Chinese wine so quickly. Very politely, nobody mentioned the variegated patterns on my forehead. Like I said, the Chinese are very gracious indeed!
Whiter Shade Of Pale
When the time came for me to give my talk, in my rush, I couldn’t find the crucial lipstick. So there I was, tired, mottled and pale to boot. In fact, it looked like I needed resuscitation myself.
Being Content With The Content
Focus On Substance
Fortunately, when I was actually onstage speaking, all my insecurities about my appearance melted away. I was too excited to share about Singapore’s experience in improving cardiac arrest victims’ survival rates.
One the coolest things to share with my Chinese audience is our successful dispatcher-assisted CPR story. Essentially, our cardiac arrest survival rates doubled when the emergency dispatchers stayed on the line to coach CPR while the ambulance was on its way.
At the same time, I was proud to recount to these Chinese professors tales of how we populated the country with AEDs. Other than having them in schools, we also have them in government flats and public spaces.
DARE To Save A Heart
Discussing how we trained the community to respond to cardiac arrest garnered a lot of attention. I talked about how we shot a video starring kids as heroes and pushed for the programme to be mandatory in schools. Some Professors asked about this programme being in schools. Hence I brought up some of the points covered in Anatomy of A Letter. In addition, I shared about how we use that video in training other community groups as well, such as places of worship and various firms.
Here’s the YouTube link to the full video which my team shot 5 years ago:
Closing Remarks About The Chinese Conference
So maybe I placed too much emphasis on silly things like how I should look. And in spectacular fashion, it pretty much imploded. However, thankfully, this talk was completely not about me. Nope, presenting at the Chinese conference was an honour. I was grateful to share about the fantastic work that my teams have been doing for the past 6 years. The data about how we have been improving cardiac arrest survival rates is strong. And when the Chinese professors asked to keep in touch so they could learn from us, I felt a great sense of national pride.
Next time I go back, there will be even more data to share. I’m already looking forward to it, with or without my lipstick.