22 Feb 2016

Reflections of a first time conference presenter

Guest Post by Siobhan McGuinness a library and Information Professional just completed a Library and Records Management Internship with the Heritage Council,

Why present?
For many it is the topic they are presenting on, a piece of research or a great initiative that was successfully implemented in their library. For me, it was challenge number one of 2016, along with the fact that I felt internships get a bad rap. Here I had an opportunity to give a closer insight into the opportunities internships can give library professionals. In addition, I had just worked on a library project with the Heritage Council that was interesting in more ways than one! On this internship I gained extensive experience in library collections management, archives and records management, project initiation and scoping, publications management, and conference planning and organisation.

How to take that first step?
The first step is acknowledging that you want to do this. The next step is telling someone. By telling someone you gain confidence in your idea, and in yourself. This is the easy stage, all you need to do is write down the idea, give it a title and fill in the application form. There is always the possibility of not being accepted, which you firmly need to keep in your mind.

Fortunately, A&SL accepted my application and from there came the third step, “What the hell have I done”. To say I am terrified of public speaking is an understatement, to know me you think confident, & chatty. To actually know me, you see terrified and always under estimating myself.

How did I prepare?
Preparing alone is not something I am good at, I always need a buddy. If anyone is on Twitter you should all know @LibrarySherpa, and this lovely lady is my mentor. Having someone at your back is always a good thing, you don’t need them to check everything you are doing, just having them there is support in itself.

Having never done this before PowerPoint can be painful. It was painful. From the day I got the acceptance I tried to put together a presentation, each one failed and did not make sense. But I am true believer in “dust yourself off and try again”.

I had attended the Career Development Group seminar last year titled “Abstract to Audience” great advice was shared on how to put together a clear presentation. I knew what I didn’t want (a) text (b) black and white. However, I knew what I wanted which included pictures, colour and quotes. Having done this simple exercise, I began to further see what pictures I wanted, quotes that I liked and a colour scheme that stood out but didn’t overwhelm anyone.

Be prepared!
It takes time and a lot of energy. I wrote my script while preparing PowerPoint, and as much as it made sense to me, it did not make any sense to anyone else. You will rework your slides and you will rewrite your script, if like me and in a perfect world you wish to have everything done and dusted a month before the presentation, this may not happen. But what will happen is all the work will stay in your mind, you come to know and be comfortable with the presentation.

The conference!
My time slot was second last presenter on the last day of the conference, for some this is a nightmare, for me I was glad. It gave me the opportunity to sit up the front, see how the room looked from where I would be standing. I promised myself that up until the time that I was due to present I would not constantly think about my presentation.

I was there to learn and the speakers were all very interesting, I was not going to lose that time worrying or stressing. At the end of the first day I was allowed practice my presentation from the podium and check that my slides looked good on the big screen. It felt really good to be up there, and I suddenly realised the room does not look as intimidating as I thought it would be.

I did not learn my script, I chose to have it typed out and on my iPad, this device gave me control over my hands. I knew my hands would shake but I also knew my brain is programed not to drop this thing, my hands did not shake once! It helped that as I read and looked up I didn’t have to focus on people, that I could just skim the crowd, which again was a positive for me, focusing on certain people would make me nervous.

I was very happy with the response from my presentation, it is the best feeling in the world to hear people congratulate you on something you created and delivered.

So on reflection I want to answer these three small questions:

What did I learn from this situation?
Believe in yourself, no one is making you do this so enjoy it.

How can I grow as a person from this experience?
We all have insecurities, and for some we don’t acknowledge them or work on them. For me I have grown to believe that my ideas are not all that bad, that I can take them out of my notebook and apply them in a professional way.

What are three positive things about this situation?
1. Support, from friends, family and colleagues, I could not have done this without them.
2. Growth, to face a fear and believe you can overcome it.
3. Belief, knowing that you can push yourself a little further.

More information on the conference and can be found here and Marie O'Neill has posted her reflections of the conference here.


Post a Comment