You’d have thought, from the fuss I was putting up about nerves before my presentation at NPC2010 on Monday, that it was the first time I’d ever been called on to speak in front of an audience. Well, it wasn’t – not quite! The Rising Stars/Fellows roundtable at the SLA conference in New Orleans came first.

The roundtable was the first time I’d spoken in front of a LIS audience, without being the deliverer of specific training. To put it bluntly, it was the first time anyone had ever listened to me speak about what I thought. Gosh, I’m glad I didn’t think of it like that before the event! I’d have been paralysed by terror. As it was, I was pretty nervous. But it was a different kind of nervous than the presentation nervous at the New Profs Conf, for a totally different kind of event.

The roundtable was organised by Webb Shaw of J J Keller, who sponsor the Rising Star awards (nb – the webpage hasn’t been updated yet. If you want more info about this year’s class of Stars, see this video). Webb did a fantastic job of organising the event – firstly, he organised it! as anyone who’s tried to get librarians/info pros all moving in the same direction – across continents and timezones, no less – will know, that’s a pretty good feat.

Webb also gave us a list of topics to choose from, and then paired up Stars and Fellows to discuss each topic. This, may I say, might just have been a stroke of genius! I was paired with the lovely Dee Magnoni to discuss how we proactively deliver information to our users. Not only was the topic one on which Dee and I had very different, but complimentary experiences, but I knew that if I completely broke down, went silent, went mad, Dee would be there to calmly pick up the pieces of my dignity, and save the show. I’d love to say that I didn’t need her to, but…

…At one point during the questions to the panel at the end of the session, I signalled for the microphone, got it, and promptly forgot everything. Not only did I forget what I’d planned to say, I forgot my fellow panelists names and – pretty much – how to speak at all. I spluttered, Dee hugged me, laughed and said ‘it’s ok!’. I got back on track. I simply can’t describe how important that reassurance was. Much like Adrienne smiling at me throughout my NPC2010 presentation, it was a vital human touch that reminded me that librarians are nice people. Generally.

If you were at the roundtable, you’d remember that quote, which was greeted with gales of laughter, and which may haunt Amy for years to come. Oh yes, there was a lot of laughter! all through the panel. From Jill’s strict rules on the propriety of handwritten thankyou notes, right through to the rousing birthday song for James (my word! can’t Libby just *sing!*), the panel was *fun*. An excellent positive experience to kick-start my speaking career πŸ™‚

view of the SLA 2010 stars/fellows roundtable

all 10 roundtablers - and Webb. Note the 3 laptops...

Unlike Chris, Amy, and James, I didn’t manage to tweet from the roundtable! While I meticulously – some might say obsessively – tweeted the other sessions I attended, I’d never dreamed of tweeting while I was on stage. But it seemed to work well – if that’s how you engage with a session, why should it be any different when you’re sat on a panel waiting your turn, than when you’re in the audience? I’m not sure I’d recommend it for all events – if people can’t cope with the audience tweeting, how on earth would they react to the presenters or panel doing so?

For straight-forward presenting, I like Ned’s idea of using FutureTweets to schedule tweets relevant to his blogging workshop. I think that’s a good way to engage with more than one audience – especially, perhaps, if you know your audience is unlikely to be tweeting, or if you have links that you’d like to share. But I don’t think this concept would work for a panel discussion, where you don’t know what your fellows are going to discuss in advance. Hey, if you’re anything like me, you might not know what you’re going to discuss in advance…

So, two very different speaking appearances at two very different conferences. Do I have the bug? Am I trawling through list-servs, looking for other conferences I can submit papers to? No(t yet). I think I’ll always be more comfortable communicating in writing, but I do now see that speaking can be pretty darn good fun too!