Friday, February 5, 2010

#onw2010 Embracing Your Inner Rachel Ray: What TV Chefs can Teach Librarians about Presentation Style

Anna Johnson, Mt. Hood Community College

This session will include clips from FoodTV!

When, how, and from whom did librarians learn public speaking skills?
Nearly all of us facilitate trainings, demonstrate resources, and teach to groups, but almost none of us took public speaking or acting classes.
How would you feel if you needed to demonstrate a new database in 30 minutes? A few would be enthusiastic, but most would be hesitant. Public speaking as one's self (not acting a character) is an emotional experience.

Most librarians are closer to Ben Stein than Rachel Ray, although instruction librarians get closer. Personality can shape our career focus, but all of us can improve our public speaking.

Television cooking shows rely on both personality and structure - the shows are demonstrations. Typical library presentations also last about 30 minutes. Both chefs and librarians have years of experience and are experts on their subjects, and we're also able to teach other people what we know, step-by-step, energetically and enthusiastically.

Personality
1) Energy, enthusiasm, and/or passion for the topic
Rachel Ray is able to be fun and enthusiastic about nothing. Sometimes she's got to kill time during preparation, but the energy stays high.

2)Willingness to share your own personal feelings and experiences
This makes us more accessible and relatable. Personal stories can also fill dead air, like in between one-on-one assistance. For example, tell them what you personally have checked out from Summit.

3) Expert knowledge from getting paid to do what you love
Our audience already knows that we're expert - that's why they come to workshops. Don't waste time establishing expertise.

4) Ability to explain what you're doing while you're doing it
This either comes naturally or it doesn't. For people who struggle with public speaking, this is a challenge - how to both do something and narrate it simultaneously.

Structure
1) Let the audience know why they should care about this skill and do it themselves.
2) Explain what you're doing and why - and what to avoid
Include explanations about how to rescue from problems.
3) Prepare examples ahead of time
On-the-fly searches are good for engaging an audience, but require intense familiarity with database/catalog being searched. We have to be open to stopping the middle of a presentation to scale appropriately. For example, zoom into the important part of a screen using Control+.
4) Be prepared to skip steps to maximize your time (like a chef's mise-en-place).

Q&A

What about students who are required to be at a workshop (can't change the channel)?
  • Try to find a connection; relate it to their class.
What about when you don't know the baseline knowledge of the audience?
  • We still need to own our structure: don't let their level of knowledge derail you. This is where preparing helps; you can refer people to different sources.
  • A participant suggests using a quick SurveyMonkey question sent out ahead of time to gauge knowledge level.

What about presenting to faculty - can we assume they respect the expert knowledge?
  • Depends on whether they've invited you (which is easier) or you're hosting an open house. Projecting confidence and owning your own expert knowledge establishes expertise. Confidence helps you be fun.
  • A participant points out that developing a connection with faculty over repeated interactions as a subject liaison supports their perception of expertise (like fans following a specific tv chef). Ideally subject liaisons should correspond to the librarians' experience and passions.

Don't be so concerned about being serious and cramming all the material in there. Feel free to use movie clips to make the presentation more accessible (try The Simpsons).

How can we develop different presentation personae for different audiences?
  • Be okay with a bit of artifice. An alternative persona can make it less intimidating to speak in front of groups.
It's okay to show mistakes and move on from failures. It helps the users see how to dig themselves out of their own mistakes and makes you more personable. Having stories prepared can also help cover dead times.

A participant reminds us to be visually interesting - use props, gesticulate. Props are fun.

How do you know when your audience is engaged?
  • End your presentation with where to find more information and more help. It makes it easier for them to capitalize on their own interest, but if they don't want the tools, there's only so much we can do.
Another participant suggests being enthusiastic about surprising discoveries.

How do you deal with disciplinary interruptions?
  • Remember that tv shows have commercial breaks. Don't do 1 thing for more than 10 minutes without shifting gears, and recap and forecast every 10 minutes. This allows for easier recovery from disruptions, and induces fewer disruptions. A participant suggests including irrelevant image slides for breathing room.
Another participant uses metaphors to persuade students that they care about the information and examples that are relevant to their own lives.

How can we as a profession help librarians develop public speaking skills?

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Libri & Libertas: Books & Freedom in a Web 2.0 World by Laura H. Wimberley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - Share Alike 3.0 United States License.