Posts Tagged ‘presenting’

Well over a year ago, I was asked to present a session at the SLA Conference on behalf of the SLA Legal Division. I instantly knew that if I did present a session, I would like to host a knowledge cafe. I have attended knowledge cafes in the past where I have learnt about the real world experiences of fellow law firm librarians; and it’s this practical knowledge which I have found the most valuable to my work.

SLA 6However, I was very nervous about accepting. I had not presented at a conference in a couple of years and I had certainly never chaired a large group discussion before. Not to mention that I also dislike public speaking (in fact I would have called it a phobia a few years ago) and I was worried that my nerves for presenting a session would ruin my entire conference experience.

But I have learned that, at least professionally, you should never turn down an opportunity to challenge yourself. So I agreed to chair the Knowledge Cafe.

I was very fortunate that I had Victoria North and Bobbi Weaver as my lovely co-chairs for the session, and we worked well together in preparing our topics for discussion. The way we structured the session was to have each of us introduce a topic for a couple of minutes and then pose a leading question to our audience, who then discussed that question in groups of 5-8 people.

Once all of the topics and questions had been discussed, I then went through each question with the audience; listening to and responding to their comments and occasionally chairing further discussion with everyone as one large group. This was something I was particularly nervous about as it is not something that you can prepare for in advance, and I don’t usually think of myself as being very good at thinking on my feet! But I felt that it went really, really well. I underestimated how much knowledge I have accumulated as a professional in the last 5 years, and I was able to respond to comments with views and ideas of my own.


Of course, as a presenter it is difficult to know how you came across and if the session was useful to the attendees. But I was lucky that one lady came up to me at the end of the session to give some feedback, and what she said is etched into my brain because I was so utterly shocked and so pleased, that I can almost tell you her exact words:

“I can see why you are a Rising Star, you were born to speak and moderate. You were so natural and clear”.

Now this feedback frankly didn’t just make my day, it made my year!!! Fear of public speaking is something that I have had to get over, and improving my public speaking skills has taken a LOT of practice and putting myself voluntarily into uncomfortable public speaking situations. So to receive this feedback really made me ecstatic. And considering what a positive effect this feedback has had on me, it is difficult to imagine someone giving this feedback at a UK conference. So I urge you all – if you have positive feedback for someone, take that extra minute of your time and just go and give it! It could give a huge confidence boost to that person. We shouldn’t let our British reserve get in the way of giving positive feedback where it is deserved and where it could make a world of difference.


Below is a summary of the group discussions from the Legal Division Knowledge cafe, kindly transcribed onto a flipboard by Victoria during the session.

1. How can active members of the law library profession promote the value of joining organizations such as SLA to the law librarians of the future and to others whose membership has lapsed?

  • Networking, particularly with librarians in other sectors and industries and having access to them
  • Being responsible for your own professional development and expanding your skill sets
  • Access to vendors products
  • Promoting SLA membership on your own social media and personal blogs

2. Embedded vs. central library – where’s the best place for info pros?

  • Being embedded helps info pros gain specialisms in particular areas of law
  • But how do you ensure a continuity of service for embedded librarians when they are away on leave or off sick?
  • Having a central library team is better so that you have an immediate team of fellow professionals to consult with
  • It was raised that not may firms will have a choice in the matter of whether to embed their team or to keep it centralised
  • Is there sufficient space to embed a member of your team in a department? You would have to get partner agreement to use up a free desk within a team
  • Buy in from the practice area is key for an embedded librarian to be successful

3. What do you do when a patron wants an English version of a law from a non-English-speaking jurisdiction? Are translations reliable?

  • It is difficult to obtain authoritative translations
  • Still requires interpretation by expert lawyers
  • Local counsel websites are a good source for translations

4. How do you overcome barriers to knowledge sharing?

  • There are different ways of working and sharing knowledge for different lawyers
  • Methods to encourage knowledge sharing requires buy-in from senior stakeholders in order to be truly successful – to embed it as a step within processes
  • There’s a risk of not knowing the context of documents, in that a document may not be suitable for re-use in a different deal
  • Documents for knowledge collections could be approved in order to eliminate this risk

5. Business development – working with them or working for them?

  • There’s an issue where the information team provides research/work for the BD team and the BD team distributes that work as their own and takes credit for it
  • A method to prevent this is to provide orientations to new BD team members so as to set their expectations and explain the role of your team – you work with them but not for them!
  • Facilitate training sessions for BD so that they can conduct their own research
  • Look to be given credit for your work – consider branding the library team’s work by using a watermark

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This is a long overdue post on the final day of the Perfect Information Conference. Panel sessionThis involved 2 sessions in the morning before we left the Aviator hotel and back to our homes. The first was a panel session titled ‘Enabling Access to ‘Perfect Information’ in an Imperfect World’. This was a really interesting discussion debating the pros and cons of federated and enterprise search, which also fielded examples and experiences from the audience of implementing both types of search. As it was more of a discussion rather than a presentation, I’m afraid I haven’t got many notes from the session but it seems that federated search has been much better received than enterprise search.

The Art of Engagement by Linda Cockburn

The second and final session was on the art of presenting. I thought that Linda was very brave to provide a presentation on how to present to a room full of primarily experienced and senior library and information professionals. I was very much looking forward to this session as I was hoping to get advice in preparation for my upcoming BIALL Conference presentation with Sam Wiggins. Linda was superb and I picked up lots of tips to consider when preparing for a presentation that focused on performance and presentation content:

  • Be authentic and enthusiastic – share the best, most memorable, useful and interesting account of yourself and you work. For my presentation I spoke about how I wanted to be a professional Irish dancer before becoming a librarian!
  • Tell a story and bring it to life – arouse the audience’s anticipation by providing obstacles which must be overcome for success, and leave something for the end so that there is a climax
  • Remember, you are only nervous only because you care about what you are speaking on. Don’t fight your nerves, accept them.
  • Speak at half the speed you think you should – I didn’t use any notes for my presentation except a single A4 that said “slow down and smile” in capital letters!
  • If you want it to be a brilliant presentation, practice it at least 9 times out loud; particularly the opening and closing minutes for your presentation.
  • Present to a friend, and ask them to say it back to you to make sure you are explaining the information clearly.
Aviator Hotel

Aviator Hotel

This session was a great way to end the conference, as I came away feeling hopeful and positive about my presentation preparation for the BIALL conference. The content of this conference was excellent – I found every single session relevant and interesting to my work; which I can’t say for every conference I have attended. The calibre of presenters were impressive, and the sessions were balanced covering hot topics of the day such as mobile technology as well as topics that were useful on a personal level, such as managing your career progression. What also made the conference so successful was the calibre of attendees. The majority of attendees were very experiences and in senior positions, with lots of library managers knowledge manager directors. This meant that the numerous tea breaks between sessions involved really thought-provoking discussions, and was as useful as the formal presentations themselves. I would very strongly recommend the Perfect Information Conference to anyone who is considering going, it was a full and interesting few days!

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