10 Things I've Learned Presenting at Library Conferences
1. Always be prepared. Arm yourself with multiple digital versions of your presentation, a USB storage device, a cable for your laptop to attach it to ANY projector you may encounter and a back up plan if any or all technological links in the presentation chain fail. Could you do the material cold from your notes and handout?
2. If presenting in a track, try to be present for the other speakers. It’s respectful, can be useful in augmenting your talk on the fly with other ideas and examples (i.e. “This morning Person X discussed blogging and using blogs internally for libraries, here's my take on that…”) and it provides a cohesiveness that track-based schedules perpetuate.
3.Share! If co-presenting or presenting with another person on two topics in one session, be mindful of the time frame and make sure folks get to ask questions of both parties – especially if you go second.
4. Have fun!Don’t hide behind a piece of paper reading or stand so straight and stiff that you look uncomfortable. The audience is just folks --library folks -- and we're a pretty encouraging group of people.
5. Know your stuff, yes, but don’t mind or falter if someone asks a question you cannot answer. There is nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know.” Someone else might or you can chat after the talk.
6. Be mindful of acronyms. Define, even if you think everyone in the place knows what you are talking about. At ILF, I off-handedly mentioned RFID and plowed right on with my talk. Afterward, a nice lady came up and said: “ I have a stupid question: what’s RFID?”
7.There are no stupid questions.
8.Deliver a clear message. If you are explaining some technology, do your best to put it in everyone's terms or help them understand it with analogies, etc. A presenter who can present technology-laden topics to people without putting them off with techno-babble is a good presenter indeed.
9. Humor works, but not at the expense of anyone – our users, our colleagues, ourselves. (Well, a little humor about ourselves is good: “I’m a librarian, I can’t go anywhere without handouts…”)
10. Don’t think: “I could never speak at such-and-such conference.” If you have something good to say – look for ways to say it! InfoToday conferences, ALA, PLA, state meetings, local meetings – look around! Get involved! Propose!
BONUS Remember: It's not ME ME ME... it's "what can we talk about and learn that will help our library users get to information better, faster and in a way they will recognize the great value of libraries?"