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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.

Greetings from New Orleans! Do forgive any typos – I’m typing this on my phone as I move around the conf centre.

With no time to blog – this conference keeps you busy! I’ve mainly been tweeting. But my session yesterday pm had no wifi, and it was too good not to share, so you get a blog post from me 🙂

It’s not going to be hugely in-depth, but i’d like to share the main points I picked up.

The session was ‘evolving roles: conversations in the round’, and focussed on how info pros are seeing their roles evolve and change. The panel was Cindy Hill, Karen Huffman, Jessica Baumgart, and the moderator was Julie Domel. There were also a number of notable contributions from the audience.

One of the things that really resonated with me was a comment from Cindy, about her work at Sun. She said ‘I limited myself for years. Bosses told me I was doind great, and asked me ‘what do you want to do’?, and I said ‘I love working with people, information, knowledge, so anything you want to give me to do with that’. What I should have said was ‘anything you think I can do!’ By the time I realised, and did, Sun was on it’s way down, and it was too late.’

I think this is hugely important. Cindy is an extremely capable and talented info pro, yet she didn’t have the confidence to step outside what she felt to be her defined area – despite encouragement. Maybe it wasn’t even a lack of confidence as such – perhaps a feeling that it just wasn’t suitable? Perhaps that shows a collective lack of confidence in the profession.

An interesting corollary to this was Jessica’s description of the roles she took on following a down-sizing at her org. She didn’t limit herselfto things that might be expected to be in the remit of an info pro – she took on anything that needed doing – including running the radio booth! Wonderful practical example of the flexibility of info pros – we can learn to do anything! And the best way to show this? Do it!

Julie pointed out that stepping ouitside your expected roles like this allows you to make connections and build relationships which you otherwise might never encounter. These in turn lead to new opportunities.

One of the things that impressed me greatly about all the speakers was that they are their own catalysts and drivers for change – they act, not react. Its wonderfully inspiring in a time when we’re thinking about how to face the future – we need to take action to shape the future of our roles and profession, not sit around and wait for change to come to us.

A very brief note on conference as a whole so far: amazing! It’s only my 2nd sla conf and I’m hooked. I can see why ppl save up all year and use their holiday time to travel thousands of miles to attend. Don’t ever be put off by the name and think that sla isn’t for you – sla is for everyone! and no, I haven’t had a factini yet – I’m just high on the conference buzz 😉 laissez les bons temp roulez!

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