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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 🙂

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!

I have a confession to make: I really, really enjoyed the New Professionals Conference yesterday. There were a few nervous moments about my presentation and my Twitter workshop, but overall? had a whale of a time! It was fantastic to see so many people – some completely new, some known from Twitter, some met before – and hear some brilliant presentations. (I say ‘some’, not because the presentations weren’t all brilliant, but because I didn’t get to see them all.) And you know something else? SLA2010 was pretty darn ace too. Thoroughly enjoyed it. And I’m really looking forward to the SLA Europe Summer Soiree tomorrow.

‘Hmm’, I hear you say, ‘not exactly the juiciest of confessions. You went to some good conferences and enjoyed them. Do you have very little on your conscience? Are you not supposed to have fun?’

Well, it’s not so much ‘not supposed to’ as ‘didn’t really expect to’. Surprised now? Hopefully, you hadn’t noticed that I tend strongly towards ‘shy’, and that face-to-face networking has been, at times, quite excruciatingly painful for me. I have a tendency to be rather of the Groby Lington persuasion:

He was a good-natured, kindly dispositioned man, and in theory he was delighted to pay periodical visits to the wife and children of his dead brother William; in practice, he infinitely preferred the comfort and seclusion of his own house and garden, and the companionship of his books and his parrot

Or, to put it in the words of someone I met at SLA2010, when discussing how various people engage with the association ‘I guess some people just don’t like coming out from behind their desks, and meeting people in the real world’. ‘That’s me!’ I thought. ‘That’s true!’ I said. Of course I didn’t tell her that I felt like that. I haven’t told anyone. Until now.

I was inspired by Eleni Zazani‘s presentation at npc2010, where she said that being enthusiastic is a choice. And a choice that you have to keep on making. She emphasised that you have to search for the positive, and embrace it once you’ve found it. Keep the good reasons why you became an info pro at the front of your mind, and keep them there in the face of all discouragement.

I felt that Eleni had found words for what I’d been doing. I knew that going to conferences was hugely important for my career. I knew that meeting people face-to-face to form peer networks was vital for my personal and professional development. I knew that I would find these events valuable and rewarding, and that I would gain a huge amount from them. But on many levels, I’d still rather have been at home with my books (alas, I do not even have a parrot).

I didn’t hide away. I made myself be enthusiastic about conferences and training courses and networking events and other events where I’d have to – *gulp* – speak to strangers. I made myself leave my comfort zone, and look at the positive aspects. I focussed my reflections on those positive aspects. I drilled it into myself – you will go to this, you will enjoy this. And I didn’t tell anyone how I felt. Why? Because that would be focussing on the negative.

So why am I telling you today? Well, take a look at my opening paragraph again. I’m telling you today because it has become a positive. I made myself be enthusiastic, and have become genuinely so. I made myself focus on the positive aspects of these events, and now that’s all I can see. I have remoulded myself. And, goshdarnit, if I’m not actually pretty proud.

It does help, of course, that I now have friends at these events, who I look forward to seeing. How did I meet those friends? By social networking, and attending conferences and training courses and networking events and… you see? It builds a positive feedback loop. There will, of course, still be events where I don’t know anyone – but that’s ok. I’m sure they will be just full of lovely people, waiting to be my friends 😉

So I’m sorry that this post hasn’t been a review of NPC2010 or SLA2010 – those posts will come! And I can say confidently and happily that reviews of many more conferences will follow them.

So, the suspense is over, and the schedule’s out for the 2010 CILIP CDG New Professionals Conference (ok, yes I know that technically it’s been out for a while, but let’s not dwell on the tardiness of my blogging, ok?)

And I have to say it looks ace 🙂 I know this might prompt accusations of an unbecoming lack of modesty, as I have the enormous good fortune to appear on the programme twice, but I am genuinely excited about the conference as a whole! (not my bits. I’m terrified of them.)

I think the judging panel did a good – if very difficult job – and have found a great range of papers with a very wide appeal. Chris Rhodes has blogged about the judging process here, and there’s some great advice in there for proposal writing in general.

I also found this post from Lex Rigby extremely interesting. I do love the openness of the librarian community, and I think posting an unsuccessful proposal like this, and getting useful feedback is a brilliant example of it. It’s useful in a number of ways, as it’s not only an example of a good proposal, it’s an example of a good proposal that didn’t make it because it wasn’t focussed quite right. That’s a really valuable thing to have out there, even if it just helps future proposers realise that they weren’t necessarily unsuccessful cos they’re awful and stupid and everyone hates them, but because they just didn’t quite fit the theme, or there was another proposal about that, or there were just too many good papers, and not enough time.

I would share my proposal – and will! After the conference. See, I took thewikiman’s advice , with the result that, not only was my proposal quite informal, it contained basically everything I’m going to say. So, in the interest of avoiding spoilers, I’ll post it after the conference, for anyone (anyone?) who’s interested.

It’s also going to be a great chance to meet up with loads of tweeps, some for the 1st time (like @FieldVole, who’s presenting in the morning). I’m finally going to get to meet @joeyanne! and @sarahjison! and get to see @woodsiegirl, @theREALwikiman, and @rhodescj again 🙂 and those are just the people who have confirmed they’ll be there – I’m hoping to see many more (@walkyouhome? @annie_er?). I guess there might even be some people who aren’t on Twitter there! (in fact, I’d better hope there are, or I’ll be spending the afternoon sobbing quietly to myself in a computer room. Or attending the excellent looking elevator talks session. Or getting to hear the great afternoon papers. Hmm, was this supposed to be a bad thing?)

Although the conference is aimed at new professionals, it’s open to anyone, and the material could certainly be relevent at any stage of your career. And the more hands for me to hold, and nice smiles in the audience for me fasten onto desperately, the better! Also, as it’s in Sheffield, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be able to hang round for a beer afterwards! yay!

You may have guessed, by the way, that blogging about the conference is partly a displacement activity, to stop me actually having to do any real work on my paper/workshop. ‘I’ve done something new profs related, can tick that off my list…’ well, I might be able to get away with that for today, but I am going to have to start some real work soon. I want to do some research for my paper on proving the value of peer networks, so watch out for a survey from me sometime soon. I promise it will be short and relatively painless, and you could end up with a starring role in my presentation! Who doesn’t want their name and story hideously mangled by a nervous presenter, eh? you lucky souls 😉

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