Posts Tagged ‘BIALL’

Brighton Pier

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend the annual BIALL conference as SLA Legal Division’s representative. Many professional associations invite delegates from other associations (and particularly international ones) to their conferences, and this certainly fitted in with the theme of this year’s conference – Collaboration, Cooperation and Connectivity.

Me on brighton beachAnd rather unexpectedly this theme came to life for me in the social interaction and niceties of the conference. Now, having a few conferences under my belt, contacts and friends in the profession, and some years’ professional experience, I absolutely loved and thrived on the social networking opportunities that the BIALL conference offered. I began the conference by attending the infamous Justis party held on Brighton Pier with the first (of many) offerings of fish and chips, which was so much fun and a great way to meet other people as it was a smaller, more intimate setting than the big formal events of the conference.

PrenaxThere was also the exhibition hall with vendors, who had many games and prizes to be won as well as copious amounts of cake and sweets to be eaten (the vendors had well and truly done their research on librarians!). BIALL also came up with a Magna Carta quiz to celebrate the 800th anniversary, which required you to visit each vendor in order to get an answer to the quiz. This was a great ice breaker to approach vendors with, and I really enjoyed speaking to them and learning of the new and upcoming products out there. It’s also good to put faces to names, when we have worked with vendors either by email or telephone but have never met in person – I feel it makes a huge difference to your working relationship.

Brighton MuseumAnd of course, when we talk of social networking we cannot leave the formal evening events out! The first night was held at the Brighton  Museum and Art Gallery, which was full of the weird and wonderful, and in some cases quite frankly disturbing. The exhibitions served as great talking points, as were the fish and chips served up in small individual bowls, which logistically proved difficult to eat while holding a gin cocktail at the same time (first world/librarian problems!).

The final evening was the formal President’s reception and annual dinner held at the Hilton itself (it was lovely only having to totter down the stairs in high heels and not to walk to a different venue), and this was the highlight of the conference for me.

Myself and Helen

Dancing the night away – Helen and I

Being the SLA rep meant that I had a place at the head table with BIALL committee members and some of the other international delegates. Some of the members I already knew and some I didn’t, so it was really lovely to get to know the individuals I had heard of but had never met in person, and to catch up with old friends. It was also particularly special to see my friend and fellow SLA member Anneli Sarkanen receive the Wildy Law Librarian of the Year Award, which was thoroughly deserved and was given to a very stunned and modest Anneli! The awards were followed by dancing the night away, and I was reminded of the SLA IT dance parties I have attended previously and the great community feel that it evokes. It’s just so nice that everyone celebrates the end of the conference by getting up, having a dance and singing loudly to well known classics. An evening which confirms in my mind that I am certainly in the right profession!


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Due to the train I was catching to travel home (it was a long way back to London), I only caught the very first session of the day:

Nailing that Business Case – success and failure by Sarah Farhy

Although this session by its very nature was primarily aimed at management level, I did find this session very interesting and felt that I could apply certain aspects of Sarah’s advice in my own work; particularly when working with those outside of the library team.

Why does a business case fail?

  • It is out of step with the firm’s strategy (and makes us look disengaged and isolated)
  • There is a genuine lack of resources in the firm to implement the business case – in which case is there an issue of priority, where the library and information service is not valued enough? You need to engage with the stakeholders and understand their agenda so as to better apply your business case next time.
  • Lack of communication – the stakeholders don’t understand the point of the business case possibly due to too much detail in the wrong places.

Key tip: If your business case fails, you must make sure that you understand why the stakeholders said no to you!

What can you do to make your business case succeed?

  • Prepare – who will benefit from your proposal and what will happen if you fail?
  • Demonstrate the better use of resources, the additional value that you can offer, cost savings and future development
  • If you can’t quantify these aspects easily, at least link your costs/savings to the firm’s strategic objectives if you can
  • Look in to the payback period – what is the length of time required for the firm to recover the cost of its investment in your project?
  • Keep it simple and to the point – don’t put in unnecessary detail just to fill the void!

If you are writing a report or paper proposing a business case, here is a structure you can follow:

  1. Recommendation – what is this paper about and what I want
  2. Current status – what is wrong with the current status for the firm and for your function (tackle these separately)
  3. Benefits
  4. Outline costs
  5. Summary and recommendations

For myself who has never had to propose a business case (and possibly may not have to for a significant length of time!) this was still a really interesting session. It made me realise the vital importance of aligning yourself with the firm’s strategy in order to best support your library and information service. I also better understand the work (and the difficulty of the work) of my manager, and the difficulty of what she has to accomplish to secure the financial resources to make our library and information service as successful as possible. It was a great session for me to close the BIALL annual conference with.

So, what were my overall impressions of my first BIALL annual conference?

Like I said in my first post on this conference, this experience was a bit of a whirlwind for me and contained a lot of firsts – first time to a BIALL conference, first time to Scotland, first time presenting at a conference, first time playing a tambourine with a Scottish drummer… need I go on?

Annual dinner at Kelvingrove Gallery and Museum

Annual dinner at Kelvingrove Gallery and Museum

I wasn’t sure what to expect, or how it would compare to my experience of the SLA annual conference in Chicago the previous year. Although it was nowhere near the size of the SLA conference, the sessions that BIALL presented although a lot smaller in number, were a lot more relevant to me due to their legal and UK focus and have proved very useful to my work. I wasn’t sure how the networking would compare with the SLA conference; where the vast majority were Americans and seemed to be naturally very confident, open and welcoming. However, I was very pleasantly surprised that the British can be just as welcoming when it comes to networking at big conferences! During the breaks between sessions and at the annual dinners I really enjoyed myself meeting new people and catching up with the few attendees that I did already know. I also really felt that as a new professional who has only worked in 2 law firms, I was able to learn a lot about the working practices and structures of other legal library and information services and how they compare to the services I knew of.

With the little experience I have of conferences, it seems that the networking aspects of a conference is as equally important to one’s professional development as the conference sessions themselves, which is something that I did not expect.

What advice would I give to first time BIALL conference attendees?

Meeting people

  • I noticed that some people wore name tags that also had their twitter names – this was a great conversation starter as some people I bumped in to at the conference I had spoken with on Twitter, but had never met in person! So if you use Twitter, add it to your name badge.
  • I think it is a very friendly conference, particularly at the sit down meals where you really get a chance to have a good conversation with someone. So no matter how tired you may be at the end of a long day, I would really try and not miss out on the networking dinners!BIALL 2013

Navigating the conference

  • Due to the air con, wear lots of layers and drink plenty of water

Key things to bring

  • Business cards
  • Money for the charity raffle at the annual dinner (I forgot this!)

Vendor exhibition

  • Even if you don’t know the vendor or product, go and talk to them anyway and learn about what they offer (you may even get some freebies out of it)
  • It is also well worth talking to the vendors that you do know even if you already have products with them – on speaking to 7Side, I discovered a new product which has made our work since so much easier! And being at the conference meant I was able to ask other people about their experiences using it, so I could go to my manager with some names of those who had already used the product and their experience with it

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Flipping the Classroom: Revolutionising Legal Research Training at the University of Salford by Nicola Sales

On the Friday morning, Nicola provided an extremely thought provoking and intriguing session on a new and innovative method of providing training. The idea is to flip the classroom and instead of having the trainer on stage where they are observed providing demonstrations by generally passive users, have the session participation led, with the trainer on the side only to help and guide the users along. You can find more information at Nicola’s blog here.

This was extremely relevant to me, as during our last trainee solicitor intake the library team had discussed refreshing and updating our training on conducting legal research in time for our next trainee intake. I have therefore written another blog post focused entirely on Nicola’s session, and how this training model compares to what we use at my law firm.

Building Your Online Professional Brand by Colin Frankland

Now I had attended a very similar session by Colin at the Perfect Information Conference 2013, so my notes were not quite as detailed this time round (I promise to write up my notes of the PIC session very soon!) . But here were the key (and legal focused) points:

  • There are 5,135 (out of 12,000) UK legal companies are on LinkedIn
  • Eversheds, Pinsent Masons and DLA Piper are all very well represented on LinkedIn
  • You should act, own and manage your professional footprint
  • When creating your profile, be creative with your headline!
  • When writing your personal summary, include how you align with your company, what excited you within your professional role, and make sure you make this piece human by (for example) including your hobbies. This is important as they can be very useful as conversation starters.
  • Cardmuncher app – you can scan a business card with your phone, and this app will automatically send a connection request on LinkedIn to them

ShortbreadThere was also some general debate about the usefulness of endorsements and whether you can reject an endorsement given to you. Colin emphasised that they are crowd sourced and are therefore not intended to be taken at face value. This session served as a reminder for me to update my LinkedIn profile and to use it more widely, rather than as only a platform for my digital CV, and to make all the changes that I so virtuously intended to do after his session 2 months before!

Elevator Pitch or Elevate Your Pitch by Suzanne Wheatley

I first heard the phrase ‘elevator pitch’ at the SLA conference in Chicago, but since then it seems to have become a hot topic with information professionals in the UK. At a time where many libraries are fighting within their organisations for the resources to continue to provide a high quality information service, forming the perfect elevator pitch just in case you find yourself 1 or 2 minutes with someone influential can be extremely important.

Suzanne gave some really fantastic advice on forming the perfect elevator pitch

  • Don’t think of it as a sales pitch – think of it as a start of a new relationship. It’s a teaser, to provoke their curiosity and grab their attention.
  • Don’t cram lots of information in to it – you want to provide a clear message
  • Before you start, identify a clear goal and objective in your head of what you want to achieve
  • Don’t forget the visual – good posture, smiling and eye contact is important
  • Approximately 200-250 words, and incorporate some places to pause

This is a possible structure you can use:

  1. Explain what you do and be snappy
  2. Talk about a unique selling point – demonstrate your value to your audience
  3. Engage with an open ended question, and then listen to the answer!
  4. Conclude and exit – potentially suggest following up at a later date

BIALL Annual Dinner at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

I was really looking to getting glammed up and going to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery for the Annual Dinner, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed – little did I know that by the end of the evening I would be playing a tambourine with a bare-chested Scottish drummer!Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

When we arrived at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery I was overwhelmed by the beautiful architecture, and the weird and wonderful art pieces it held inside. It was an absolutely glorious setting to have the Annual Dinner, and I will never forget it. When we sat down to eat, speeches were made and awards were announced, and again I was surprised by the friendliness and variety of people at my table. I was a little naïve in that I wasn’t expecting quite so many vendors, recruitment agencies and non-librarians at the event; but I really enjoyed getting to know about them and their work, and I really learnt a great deal from them.

For the grand finale (and this was a very well kept secret!) we had some Scottish musicians perform for us. They looked like they had just stepped out of the Viking Age! They were absolutely fantastic, and it was impossible not to jig your foot along. I suspect the lead drummer may have caught sight of my dancing foot, because the next thing I know he had pulled me up and gave me a tambourine to play! All alone at the front I was rather embarrassed, so I was extremely thankful when Suzanne Wheatley and a number of others came up and joined me. It was so much fun, and an experience I will never forget, and probably a highlight of the whole trip! Especially because I hadn’t had the chance to see or experience anything of Scotland outside of my hotel so far.

Scottish musiciansSuzanne, myself, Anneli and Rochelle

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I know this post is extremely late in coming, but here is my account of my experience at the BIALL 44th annual conference in Glasgow, Thursday 13th June – Saturday 15th June 2013. I was lucky enough to attend both as a delegate on behalf of my work team, and as a speaker presenting a session on New Professionals alongside Sam Wiggins. So you can imagine that attending the conference produced a whirlwind of emotions for me, and I think I possibly experienced every emotion on the spectrum from feeling inspired and excited to sheer terror and panic.

However, for this post I will focus on my considerably less nail-biting experience as a first time delegate to the conference, and leave my own presentation of a BIALL session for a later date. As usual, these posts will include summaries of the sessions I attended as well as my own personal thoughts.

On the long train journey up to Glasgow, I had quite a lot of time on my hands to think and anticipate what the conference might be like. I was excited at going to Scotland for the first time, which only grew with the increasingly beautiful and wild scenery as we travelled further north, and I found myself wondering how the BIALL conference would compare to my experience of the SLA annual conference in Chicago, which I attended as an ECCA winner the previous year. I was slightly apprehensive that networking may be more difficult at what would be the largest UK conference I had ever attended; particularly considering that us British tend to be very polite and reserved compared to the Americans. However, I needn’t have worried! Before I had even got on the train I had arranged to meet Anneli, a friend of mine through SLA, and this turned out to be a good move as Anneli was able to introduce me to her work colleagues and lots of the BIALL community, which gave me a very good start.

Glasgow Hilton lobby

Glasgow Hilton lobby

Once we arrived at the very lovely Hilton hotel, where the conference was to be held, I explored the hotel and then proceeded to wait for Sam in the bar (who was flying in from the SLA conference in San Diego), so that we could cover any last minute questions before our presentation the next day.

Day 1

Awake nice and early, I had a lovely surprise at breakfast bumping in to Tracy Z. Mayleef, who had also travelled in from the SLA annual conference in San Diego – but even in her jet-lagged state, Tracy was recognising people from the BIALL conference the year before, saying hello to almost everyone in the room and kindly introducing me to them all. I really am envious of Tracy’s networking skills which are absolutely awe-inspiring. It may be partially due to her American way, but I think it has as much to do with her bubbly personality and her intention to make friends with everyone she meets!

Invincible or just a flesh wound? The Holy Grail of Scots law by Hector MacQueen

We then proceeded to the keynote lecture by Professor Hector MacQueen, where I was thrilled to find that it opened with the clip from the Monty Python film (which is one of my all time favourites). As indicated by the title of the session, Hector skilfully wove the serious with the entertaining, exploring the codification of Scottish law as the Holy Grail for Scotland’s legal system.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I have to confess, I am totally ignorant of Scottish law and the ways in which its systems differ to the English legal system that I am mostly familiar with, but Hector’s talk was very interesting and particularly timely due to the current hot topic of Scottish independence, and he considered the implications independence would have on the Scottish legal system. Currently any UK law after 1707, when Scotland joined the UK, including welfare, tax, commercial and consumer law, applies in Scotland. If Scotland became independent, would these laws still apply?

Hector then spoke on the ‘flesh wounds’ to Scottish law:

  • Indifference of the Scottish population to the Scottish legal system, or worse, fear and loathing
  • Ignorance of Scots law
  • Inaccessibility of Scots law
  • Impotence – the Scottish Commission has to work with the English Commission, and due to lack of resources the English Commission always takes the lead
  • Is Scots law in demand? In some cases people can choose the jurisdiction and tend to prefer using English law
  • Scottish law firms are having business difficulties

But on the other hand, Scots law is ‘invincible’:

  • It is still standing 300 years after the Union
  • The compassionate release of the Lockerbie bomber Megrahi. serves as a reminder of the powers of the Scottish legal system
  • It is a mixed legal system and evolution is its strength
  • Scotland has its own Parliament, courts, land registries, Law Commission, legal profession and education. It is therefore prepared to some extent for independence.

Although not of particular relevance to my personal work, this talk really opened my eyes to the problems facing a very old legal system in a modern day Scotland, and it was a really enjoyable start to the conference.

Legislation.gov.uk – Essential for the Law Business by Carol Tullo

This is a website that publishes UK legislation online and is freely available to the general public, with the aim to render legislation more accessible. If you work in a law firm as an information professional, you probably use a private subscription service such as Westlaw UK or Lexis Library to access legislation, as unfortunately legislation.gov.uk is neither comprehensive or kept up to date.

Some of the problems that this project has encountered has been dealing with legislation from different jurisdictions in different styles and even different languages, that the process of publishing legislation is still mainly in print and not digital form, and that the law is constantly evolving and therefore the website content needs constant updating as well as new content being added.

However, the aim is for legislation.gov.uk to have fully up to date legislation published on the website by 2015 (approximately half of it is published at the moment), and to have Welsh language versions of legislation available as well.  Carol cited some astonishing statistics regarding usage of the website, with 2-3 million views a day and ½ billion visits a year, which shows that this is an important resource for the general public and for businesses.

I confess that I have often moaned to my colleagues about legislation.gov.uk on the few occasions I have needed to use it – but this talk made me appreciate what a huge job it is, and how beneficial it is for everyone if it is able to keep going and make UK legislation accessible to everyone with an internet connection.

Developing Mature Social Media Platforms by Steven Raeburn

I very much enjoy using social media and I am intrigued about how much of a part it will play in the business of law firms in the future (law firms tend to be a bit behind the times, and so it doesn’t play a huge role at the moment), but I also feel that the subject of social media has been a bit overworked and I did wonder whether I would learn anything from this session.

Here are the main points from the talk:

  • Social media platforms are designed for individuals and not companies and institutions; which means they are often not being used successfully unless there is a small team of individuals responsible for it
  • Social media is only a form of communication just like email, speaking on the phone and attending meetings – therefore it shouldn’t be delegated to someone else
  • Only 11% of the legal profession are using social media
  • Reputations and client bases are formed on social media. Social media provides a platform to develop, broadcast and create a reputation
  • 86% of people are using a tablet, mobile phone or laptop when they are watching TV
  • Don’t treat Twitter like your email inbox – it’s impossible to keep up constantly with the world of Twitter, so just tune in and tune out as you want to and dip in serendipitously rather than try and spend all your time keeping track of every tweet.

To be honest, I’m not sure if there was much that I hadn’t heard before, but it was a fairly low key session that played a useful distraction for my nerves, as I had to present my own session On new Professionals immediately afterwards. I will write a separate post on that session later.

First night dinner

In the evening there was a formal dinner held at the Hilton. Networking is not a key strength of mine so I was a little nervous about spending a whole evening with strangers, but as I sat down to a rather beautifully decorated table, the people sitting on either side of me turned out to be very lovely and extremely friendly Scottish law librarians (as if they were going to be anything else!), who were really interested in comparing our work practices and our experience of the conference so far. And of course, as it is with all networking, once you make friends with one person, they introduce you to one of their colleagues and so on, until you gather an increasing number of acquaintances all within the space of one evening.Dessert

One other thing to note was the presentation of the Lexis Library Awards at the dinner. I have never been in such a large environment of UK law librarians before, and I was surprised by how proud people were of their library identity, of being nominated for an innovation award and so on, and I reflected on how my own library team are very unassuming in our achievements; and despite the excellent work we do we rarely (if ever) have even attempted to put ourselves forward for an award of any description. Being nominated or even winning an award can motivate your team, and can also be important as possible leverage to demonstrate the value of and success of your library service within the wider firm if needed. Since coming back from the conference this is something that I have raised with my manager, and I hope we may start working on gaining recognition for some of the work we do in future.1st Night Dinner

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Earlier this week, I gave my first ever formal presentation at the SLA Europe, BIALL and CLSIG joint Graduate Open Day.

The History

Now, you may know that I am a rather shy person. At school I never used to answer questions in class, and if I was asked to speak I would shake like a leaf. Any opportunity for public speaking I used to actively avoid like the plague. I even remember badgering my brother to ask the ice-cream man for my ice-cream as I was too shy to ask him myself. Now, it is safe to say that I am not naturally a good public speaker.

Bashful the dwarf

Bashful the dwarf

During my undergraduate degree of Philosophy and Literature, we were never asked to give formal presentations, but only to lead seminars with our initial thoughts on a literary work or thinker; which I thought was wonderful at the time as I hated public speaking. I didn’t mind this so much as to me it wasn’t a formal presentation, and so I can be fairly talkative in group meetings at work and so on. Again during my Masters in Library and Information Studies at UCL, I only ever had to give one formal presentation where I was in a group of 5 and had to speak for precisely 2 minutes. For the whole of 2 minutes I just read from a page of notes, and made sure I looked up at the audience once in a while. So my experience in presenting and public speaking was virtually non-existent. So last year, when I was asked to co-present at the BIALL conference at 2013 I thought it was too good an oppotunity to miss, and it would be great to get some experience by presenting with someone else, who could always take over if I decided to die of humiliation, collapse on the floor and crawl out of the room. I also thought that as it was so far in the future, I didn’t need to worry about it. It’s surprising how quickly time flies.


So about a month or two ago, I was asked to speak at a Graduate Open Day which I thought would be the perfect warm up practice to public speaking. I would only need to speak for 30 minutes (including time for questions) and the audience was the most unscary, nice audience you could possibly ask for.

In preparing for this presentation, the first thing that I did was ask for help from a professional. Now luckily for me, working in a corporate law firm, we have a fantastic number of resource available including a great HR department with an excellent trainer. So I attended a training session on presentation skills; this covered what makes a good speaker, how to design a good presentation, how to present the information so that the audience takes it in, what kind of language you can use to make information come alive and so on. I have put below the most important points I took away from the session:

  • Think about your ending – what do you want your audience to do on leaving? Do you want them to be enthused, to take further action, etc? Keep this purpose in mind in when creating your presentation, and ensure your ending will leave them witha high energy and  feeling enthused, if that is what you are aiming for.
  • At the beginning, do something to grab their attention. Use a surprising picture, a quotation, etc.
  • The rule of 3 – always have an odd number of bullet points on your slides, as your audience will take them in easier. Also, try and keep the information on your slides as simple as possible, with as small a number of bullet points as possible – ideally only 3 per slide.
  • Bring information to life by telling a story – this will make the information more memorable, and can also give the audience a taste of your personality. If you can, use sensory language to really make the story come to life.

So with all of these tips in mind, I first wrote a list of things I wanted to cover in the presentation, created a hairline structure, and then with the structure in mind I wrote out a full script of what I wanted to say in an ideal world where I had a photographic memory. Using the script, I then filled out my slides with the important points, making sure there was always 3 or 5 points in each slide so the audience could take it in more effectively. I am not saying this is the right way to create a presentation but this was how I did it.

So, I had a presentation, but what do I do next?

Despite every inch of me screaming no, I contacted the trainer at work and asked if I could run through my presentation in front of him. I ended up running through it on 3 separate occassions, roughly once a week in the 3 weeks leading up to the Graduate Open Day.

During the first session, the trainer videoed me presenting the first 5 minutes. It became apparent that my hands didn’t know what to do (my arms were down straight by my sides, like the trained irish dancer in me, but my hands were twitching and flapping like they wanted to move as I talked!), and that I liked to sway as I spoke, which can be extremely distracting for an audience. So I repeated the first 5 minutes, this time starting with my hands looseley held in front of me in front of my chest, and standing on a piece of paper so I could hear if it rustled (if I swayed). I repeated the first 5 minutes over and over, and by the end had become much more relaxed. But there was still a long way to go. At the end of this first session, I decided I could attempt to go through the 30 minute presentation. But about 7 minutes in I stopped and basically gave up. I had lost my train of thought, had got on to the wrong slide and had basically panicked and felt that I really couldn’t continue.

Practice in the mirrorSo with this rather traumatic experience in mind, I practise it every night for the next week without fail in front of the mirror. Working on my hands and mentally slapping myself on the wrist if I swayed. I also used a timer on my phone, consistently taking 34 minutes say all I had to say, and I had my laptop to show me the slides as a prompt, trying not to use notes. However, the trainer had advised me to add notes to my slides and print these out (1 slide and accompanying notes per A4) as he felt I may need them as a security blanket.

The second session with the trainer, I managed to get through the whole presentation. Although there was a marked improvement in that I was now talking with my hands, and not swaying (yay!), it only took me 23 minutes. 23 minutes! Where had a whole 11 minutes disappeared to? Obviously I was speaking really fast, and I had noticed that at various points throughout I was running out of breath, which made my voice sound shaky. I also had a few moments where I got stuck trying to turn my notes over, which distracted my train of thought.

So my trainer gave me some very constructive advice regarding my slideshow; making my life easier for myself by just putting a screenshot of Twitter instead of using a link to the external website (during the run through I had panicked and lost the slideshow when I had the internet browser open), and advising me to introduce some statistics to emphasise some of my points. He also said to add sticky tabs to the notes to make them easier to turn over, and to just practice speaking extra slowly at home.

Again, I went home and practised, and practised, and practised. I still tried to do a full run through in the mirror once a night.

In the third and final session with my trainer, I ran through the presentation with no mishaps in 24 minutes. I was still speaking fairly fast but not noticeably so, and I was obiovusly missing out a few unimportant bits that I usually included in my run throughs at home. But I was fairly happy. As I knew the presentation inside out I could do it without notes, with the slides as my only prompt. Getting to this point was something I never could have imagined for myself, knowing my natural shyness and hatred of public speaking. This was a HUGE achievement for me.

Judgement Day

So, we now come to the morning of the Graduate Open Day. I looked at my notes once in the morning, and then didn’t look at them again before the presentation. My thinking was that whatever I didn’t know now I was not going to take in, and I was confident that I knew my stuff. I think I may have heard some general advice before that it is actually a good idea to give yourself a break mentally before you go up to present, but I couldn’t say where I heard this.

I gradually got nervous throughout the morning, and when I reached the venue I felt a little excited. I tried to distract myself by talking to the other speakers, and by enjoying the 2 presentations that went before mine. Finally, it was my turn to get called up.

CLSIG, BIALL, SLA Graduate Open Day

Myself presenting (picture taken by Simon Barron)

Post match analysis

Now, something that myself nor my trainer could have prepared for, was the fact that my legs instantly turned to jelly as I walked up to the stage. By the I was at the front, my legs were shaking so violently thyat I was sure the whole room could see it. My worrying about what the audience was thinking of my jelly legs, actually distracted me a little from my presentation, but I don’t think noticeably so. So what I did (and I knew my trainer would have screamed at me for doing this), I half leant, half sat on the very conveniently placed table behind me. As soon as I took the weight off my legs I instantly relaxed, stopped worrying about what the audience were thinking, and got in to the flow of my presentation, using the big screen with my slides as a prompt (no notes!). The jelly leg syndrome was probably made worse 10 times worse by the fact I was wearing heels, and so I now know to wear flats when presenting! I think I also felt more comfortable, as by half sitting down I was more on their level and I instantly felt more informal. This isn’t to say I wasn’t still nervous during the rest of my presentation, of course I was! But it allowed me to relax and give the presentation as effectively as possible. I also didn’t have the problem of running out of breath or my voice going shaky at any point during, which I was thrilled by.jelly

I was initially thrown by using a clicker for the presentation (I had only ever used a laptop when practicing), but after the first few slides it became quite natural.

I was desperate to get some feedback to my presentation, as I had no idea if I looked nervous, if anyone noticed the jelly legs, and most importantly whether the presentation was actually helpful to the graduates attending. There was a nicely timed networking session immediately after my presentation, and I had a number of people come up to chat and ask questions about going in to law after library school, which I take as a good sign. People also seemed genuinely surprised when I said I was nervous, so either they are extremely good actors, or I am a better actress than I thought I was! I was lucky to have a friend attend my presentation who assurewd me that I look totally relaxed, and I would like to think he wouldn’t lie to me just for the sake of being polite. So this was a huge achievement for me – to fool a whole room of people that I wasn’t terrified of public speaking. I also had a really nice email from a vendor who attended my presentation who said, and I quote, that my presentation was “inspirational” – I don’t think I could ask for more than that!

Here are some blog posts of the day by attendees:

What next?

Now by no means am I a great or comfortable public speaker – I only did as well as I did because I practised the presentation solidly for 3 weeks, which gave me the confidence to actually go up and give it. I also had a professional trainer who was extremely encouraging, and truly excellent in the tips and advice he gave me. I think I will always get nervous before speaking, and I will definitely have to work on my jelly legs before the BIALL conference, where I will have to be standing and presenting for a whole hour! But this presentation has certainly given me a massive boost to my confidence, and I honestly never believed I could have done it.

My personal advice to fellow nervous public speakers

  • Practice makes perfect. Honestly! Know your presentation inside out, and this will give you confidence. Don’t learn a script, as you will then get nervous about missing a line out, but just know the key points you want to convey
  • If you feel you may be susceptiblke to jelly leg syndrome like myself, wear flats not heels! Make sure you are comfortable.
  • I read on Ned’s article (mentioned below) about finding a few happy, attentive faces in the crowd, and coming back to them if you need reassurance. At one point in my presentation I saw someone yawning who looked like they were falling asleep, and I instantly looked elsewhere to someone who I had noticed was smiling and nodding along throughout the whole thing. So this is definitely a tip I would recommend!
  • Read Ned Potter’s 10 non-standard tips for public speaking – and there are some excellent comments at the bottom where other people have contributed their own tips on public speaking – and I have found them very, very helpful!

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