So as a
tenure-track newly tenured library person, I tend to think a lot about how to present better. I would never say I am an expert presenter, but if you combine my teaching with my presenting of my findings, you would see that I do quite a bit of presenting.
Here are my tips for conference presentations.
- Test, test, test again. If you plan on playing any sort of video, make sure that you test the sound. Test any graphics that you are going to use. Test your Powerpoint to make sure all the fonts have come over. Over time I’ve been less and less reliant on internet widgets.
- Back things up. I tend to bring my laptop to presentations (in case there isn’t a laptop in the room) with my presentation downloaded onto the desktop. I save my presentation onto Dropbox, and email it myself. I also bring it on a flash drive. I also save my presentation in both ppt and pdf form in case the formatting gets messed up.
- Keep it simple, or have a backup plan. Videos sometimes don’t work. Internet is spotty in conferences. I like to keep things simple. Versus using something like Poll everywhere, just have participants raise their hands, or vote via thumbs up and thumbs down. If you want people to respond, put the prompt up on the board and have them do so via worksheet.
- Remember that your audience is TIRED and OVERLOADED. I want to imagine that conference participants are more attentive, but that’s a lie. I’ve learned the hard way that if you want people to remember something, you need to say it more than once. As part of a recent conference I even said it three times. If you have a complicated idea, make sure to slow down and explain it.
- Watch your breath and volume. I first started presenting as a Girl Scout camp counselor so I would call my presentation style “VERY EXCITED TO BE HERE” When you are very excited you tend to speak very fast. Speaking very fast is not a good way to confirm that people have heard what you have to say. So try to take breaks, try not to fill every moment, and try to find a balance between talking loud and fast.
- Bring your business cards. I think that this is great way to connect with people. Sure, they could probably find all of the same information online since when you present they do know your name, but I find that giving someone your card is a great way of making a little to-do task that they should contact you. People assume that just because people have a lot of questions for you that many people will follow up with you about collaborations, questions, sharing, but it’s really not the case. You want to try to find some way to encourage them.
- On your last slide put a question for your audience. Often people have their own questions, but having a question can help center the conversation on things that you might be interested in exploring further.
Some more specific tips and hacks:
- You can embedded animated GIFs into Powerpoint presentations. It makes the Powerpoint very large, but it often a great effect.
- You can embed a timer into Powerpoint. I only recently found out about this! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuB4YrxWvLQ What if you could start a timer without leaving Powerpoint? How awesome is that?
- Slideshare is great way to share slides. Often in the past I’ve posted my slides on slide share and had them tweet out as my conference ends.
- Twitter is a great way to get conference feedback. At larger conferences, I try to pay attention the tweets. Sometimes people will ask you questions, but it’s also interested to see what sorts of conversations grows as you continue your presentation. I do not recommend having a Twitter feed going behind presenters, I find that very distracting because you don’t really have much control that and more specifically it is very hard to respond in real time while presenting.
- Buy a slide advancer. Most slides advancers work with all sorts of presentation systems. They really allow you to move around. Put it in your purse. Bring it with you. It really makes a difference.
Talking, teaching, and talking about teaching are all very different activities.
When I was in grad school at the University of Michigan I had a chance to work for the New York Public Library as part of their Alternative Spring Break program. The program was wonderful. University of Michigan provided the housing and gas money. I wasn’t paid for the week but I did get to work with such a cool group as the New York Public Library.
I worked for the Bronx branch, which has a beautiful building. The project that I worked in was called “Demonstrating a Dozen Databases”. The idea was that you would learn as much as you could about their library databases and then run a workshop on the databases for paraprofessionals. This was a perfect blending of my interests as a budding business librarian. I got to play around with a bunch of different databases and then tell people about them. There was a pretty clear deliverable. I could say at the end that I had presented to a whole room of people about something that I was relatively knowledgeable about. The workshop was one hour. One hour, 12 databases. I ended up picking 13 databases to trial because I wanted to be thorough. The picture is of me in 2013, but I probably looked pretty similar in 2011.
Thirteen databases, one hour, you can tell where this is going. I wanted to be thorough, so I decided as opposed to doing live demonstrations I would make screenshots. In the end my perfectly crafted presentation was over 120 slides long.
I practiced it. I know how to present in an engaging way. I added jokes. I had lots of outlines. I think I made a handout. I gave my presentation. It fell completely flat. Even I got a little bored listening to myself. It was at that point that I realized that teaching wasn’t the same talking. It was also about considering where your users were, what they could listen to, how you provide that information them. You could be really good at one but not as good at the other. That’s when I discovered a new respect for teachers.
Talking about teaching is its own skill. For a year I was an IMPACT consultant and I spent one day each week talking about teaching, and then going and teaching. I was very surprised to find that talking about teaching is very different from actually teaching. In fact, that’s some of my impetus for doing this blog. I also talk about teaching quite a bit as part of my job.
Talking is about preparation. As long as you are prepared you should be able to talk. Teaching is very contextual to your students and where you are at. As long as you general understand where they are and where they need to be, then you should be able to be successful at teaching. But talking about teaching is all about story telling. The person to which you are explaining the teaching is by definition not in the class where you are teaching. So they need to understand where you are coming from.
Very early in my career, I started thinking about the people who will come after me. I think a lot about how I impact the environment in which I work. I care about leaving that environment better than I found it. I have been blessed by knowing all sorts of really great people who have made the environment better and they inspire me.
Fitting in is hard. Even now in 2018, I found myself sometimes entering all white all male rooms or all baby-boomer rooms and it’s surreal for someone like me who entered a deeply feminized and increasingly millennial profession. In these positions I feel a great pressure to emulate women that came before me. I can feel the woman-shaped shadow that they have left.
Sometimes I can fit into that shadow, sometimes I just can’t. It’s not other women’s fault that I am not them. The legacy left behind can feel as if difference is frozen in glass, like being in this space means you can only be a specific type of person or as a specific type of worker from specific time or place, because great incredible people who look like you were a specific type of person or from a specific type of place.
When you are the first in an environment, the most important part is sometimes making sure that there is still a spot for those people who come after you. In these environments, I think the part where I can be my most effective is if I be my usual weird self. You know, the normal person that I am. With my sarcastic sense of humor. With my own bad handwriting. And my love of pictures of guinea pigs in cups.
I think that being weird is the most responsible thing I can do. Because in the end, it’s the most I can do. I just try to bring my whole self to work, because I hope that if I am as much of my whole self as I can be, then I will encourage others to be themselves as well, or at least the best versions of themselves that they can bring to work. They won’t spend all their time trying to fit into the leader shaped shadows that others have left before them.
I have imposter syndrome and it’s something that affects my professional life. At my institution, librarians are often tenure-track and full rank. They do research, teach classes, and act as “professors” on the campus. I had never intended to become a professor. My masters program, while innovative, was not academic focused. I wrote code. I managed clients. I ran usability tests. I like my job and there are many aspects of it which I think are important and engaging, so I have chosen to manage my imposter syndrome. One of the ways I manage it is that I acknowledge the ways my imposter syndrome is environmental.
Those who have not read the Wikipedia page, Impostor syndrome is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as “fraud”. First observed among high-achieving women, it is also common among men. The part of the phenomenon which most stood out is this point: imposter syndrome is studied as a reaction to certain stimuli and events.
Not an ingrained personality trait, nor some sort of neurosis where I can’t see my own success, imposter syndrome is understood as a response to stimuli and is situational.
As I get older it becomes clear to me that my imposter syndrome is never going to go away entirely, because I haven’t changed the situation or my response to it. This makes sense because I never felt like an imposter in previous environments. My imposter syndrome is something I can overcome, as long as I don’t ignore it.
Below are some of the ways I manage my imposter syndrome through the management of environment.
- I acknowledge the ways environment may have led to my imposter syndrome. If you look at how psychologists examine imposter syndrome, it is not as “mental disorder” but as a “reaction to certain stimulus and events.” And yet people often talk about imposter syndrome in terms of their own feelings and not the environment that led to those feelings. So do think: when are you an imposter and why? In what situations do you feel most fake? Are people surprised when they meet you? Do they make comments that ask you about your personal story, such as where you are from, that may be hinting they are surprised at your rank or position? Do secretaries ask you to leave rooms so that meetings of professors can start? Do undergraduates ask you what your major is? In what ways do people expect you to do things you don’t actually know how to do, like operate SAP systems?
- I manage the environment to lessen impacts. Think about ways you can eliminate barriers to get your work done in the environment in which you work. Say No to things which don’t help you get work done and which make your imposter syndrome worse. If there’s a certain event or activity where you feel more like an imposter, then don’t go to that event. For me, it was events at the President’s house where I didn’t know people and there are no nametags with rank on them.
- I become part of the solution, not to the problem. I was in a meeting with another younger professor where an older professor commented about how great it was that the first professor looks so young. I called the professor out on this. Does that fix the whole environment? Not always. But we all need to weed our environments.
- I find mentors who believe in me. The thing about imposter syndrome is that most people with it can get along. It can be done, but you need advocates. Find mentors you trust, who believe in you. Accountability is a wonderful thing. Sometimes you can trust other people to call you out when you don’t give yourself enough credit, or you don’t take risks because you are afraid of being “uncovered”.
You deserve to be able to function in your environment. You are wonderful person who can benefit society greatly.