Tag Archives: presenting

Teaching or training? My LILAC presentation

Last week I went to LILAC for the day. If you haven’t heard of LILAC before, I will briefly explain: it’s a conference about information literacy, and is mostly attended by librarians and researchers. It’s my favourite (in my very limited experience) of all the big events and conferences I’ve been to, because it’s got a very friendly atmosphere and there’s a real sense that everyone’s really happy to be there, and excited to share new things and learn from each other. I went last year as a volunteer for CILIP Y&H and loved it, so when I was accepted to present my own research there this year I was thrilled. Plus, the conference was at my alma mater Newcastle University this time round, so that made it extra special!

I’m going to talk exclusively about my presentation in this blog post, but I will also be writing one about all the other sessions I went to, so keep an eye out for that later this week.

My MA dissertation research is not something I really wrote much about on this blog, because I was stressing out about it way too much at the time. Now that a year has passed since I had to start thinking about it, I am able to talk about it with enthusiasm again! I wanted to do some research into how librarians think about themselves and their teaching. There’s loads of case studies out there about how librarians are implementing different teaching theories and techniques and devising cool new teaching interventions. “Teacher-librarians” seem to be a big thing! However, this didn’t always chime with what I was experiencing in my workplace – not all the librarians I met would call themselves teachers or say that what they were doing was teaching, let alone be doing all this innovation and stuff. I decided that I’d use my dissertation to find out more about how librarians viewed themselves and their roles within the institutions/environments they worked in.

I used phenomenographic interviews to collect the data for my research. Phenomenography is all about getting deeper into what people are saying about things, to try and uncover their conceptions of things. You end up with a collection of different ways in which people experience or think about a certain phenomenon – in this case, themselves as teachers (or not teachers), their teaching, and information literacy. I created four categories, each of which describes a conception, and which is different/distinct from the other three. The idea is that librarians might be able to identify which category they most closely match, and this might help them understand their approach to the teaching they do and possibly identify ways to help them approach it differently (for example, go to a training session about teaching, to help you feel more confident about calling yourself a teacher, to help you feel more like the equal of other teaching staff at your workplace, to help you have a more productive relationship with them).

After writing up and submitting my dissertation, my supervisor Pam encouraged me to think about publishing it or developing it further. Having been to last year’s LILAC, I really wanted to go back, and as my research is all about librarians who teach information literacy, it was a good fit. As is now obvious, my application was accepted and I was invited to give a 20 minute talk at this year’s conference. Hooray!

The talk went really well – about 50 people watched! – and I was delighted by the number of people who came up afterwards to tell me and Pam how interesting they thought it was. It’s nice to think that my work is actually interesting to other people and not just me!

Lots of people have asked whether they can read my research. My dissertation will be published on Sheffield’s archive at some point soon (not sure exactly when). We are also submitting an edited version to a journal, so if/when it is accepted and published I will share that online as well. In the meantime, if you’d like to get a copy of my dissertation, you are very welcome to contact me and ask for it. I’ve also put my presentation on Slideshare and embedded it at the end of this post; if you want to see what I said on the day, view the presentation notes on the Slideshare website here – just scroll down under the presentation and click notes (circled in red in the screenshot below). Enjoy!

slideshare notes

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Teaching

Last week I did my first teaching session as a professional librarian. It… was ok, I suppose? I shared the teaching with my colleague as she’s more familiar with the sessions than I am, so it was an opportunity for me to ease into teaching before going it alone at the end of the month.

The session was about bibliometrics, which is one of my main responsibilities, and involved a mixture of talking to the students, demonstrating websites to them, and getting them to have a go themselves. I did a lot of the talking bits, while my colleague did the demonstrations. I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about my “performance”; there were a couple of moments where my mouth ran away with itself, leaving my brain to catch up, making some of my explanations of statistics a little bit more jumbled than I would have liked. I think I could have been a lot clearer about what exactly some of the things I was talking about actually were, to make it all sound a bit less confusing. My worst bit was when I forgot I was talking about the Journal Impact Factor, which is a specific number calculated in a specific way, and started to talk about characteristics of journals which can be measured and demonstrated (but not necessarily by using the JIF).

The feedback forms from the session were positive, though, which I suppose is the main thing. I think my problem was that this is the first time I’ve ever given a presentation that I didn’t write (or co-write) myself, and therefore I didn’t know the material as thoroughly as I usually do. I don’t think it was actually a bad session, it just wasn’t as easy or polished as I’m used to. It’s just reinforced to me that I really need to learn the material and make sure I’m 100% familiar with it in time for my sessions in a couple of weeks’ time. Wish me luck!

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Guest Presenting

I’m going to be presenting at Manchester NLPN’s Summer Event! I’ve been a regular attendee at their events for a while now and am thrilled that they’ve let me come along to do a presentation at the next one. The theme of the event is “Interview tips and presentation skills” and the lineup of presenters sounds really great. I’m going to be giving a short talk about Library Society and how it’s helped me strengthen my “soft skills”. I’ll make the presentation available online afterwards so everyone can see it, but if you’re interested in coming along to the event, you definitely should! It’s on Saturday 19th July at the Friends Meeting House in Manchester and free tickets are available here.

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June 19, 2014 · 1:00 pm

First team-teaching session

I’m aware I haven’t updated the blog for a couple of weeks – I was struck down by a horrible flu and then went on a couple of weekend trips, and then Masterchef started, which all conspired to eat into precious blog-writing time. However, not much has happened in library life, so it’s not like anyone’s missed out on much.

The main thing that has happened is that I finally got to help teach an induction and infoskills session, trying out my presentation skills from our training back in December. I did the first part of the session on my own, which involved explaining the admin sort of stuff to the students, including usernames and passwords, printing and photocopying, and other thrilling IT-related things. I think I did quite well at this, although it’s quite hard to judge this when you’ve got a sea of blank faces staring at you. I said everything I wanted to say, and was able to answer the questions that were asked as well, so as far as that goes I’m happy with my performance. The only thing that I was unsure about was whether I was pitching the information at the right level. The thing about teaching, presenting and lecturing is that it’s not at all the same as having a conversation with someone; when you’re having a one-to-one conversation with another person, you’re getting simultaneous feedback – that’s all the nodding, “mm-hmm”, “yeah”, “right” sort of stuff that they’re doing while you’re talking. This helps you judge whether they’re understanding what you’re saying, and whether they’re still interested in hearing it or not. When you’re teaching or presenting to a roomful of people, it’s more than likely they’ll just sit still and listen without offering any of this feedback, which is part of why presenting can feel so disconcerting and scary. I found it really difficult to know whether I was going too fast or too slow and if I was explaining things in enough (or too much) detail. It’s something I think you just have to get used to, as there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. It was marginally useful to stop and ask “is that ok?” “are you ready to move on?” and other similar questions, but these were often met with silence anyway! I think the most useful thing we do here is to get students to fill in evaluation forms, so you do get feedback, albeit a little delayed.

For the rest of the session I was involved in the hands-on demonstrations, showing people how to use the catalogue, ebooks and databases. This is something I enjoy doing as I think it’s something I’m quite good at – I like explaining things and helping people to understand them, and it’s more instantly satisfying than giving a talk or presentation!

All in all, as a first taste of teaching and presenting to real live students, I think it went really well, and I’m definitely not put off by the experience. I’m itching to do some more, but opportunities are more limited at this end of the year. Fingers crossed…

 

Apart from the teaching, not a whole lot has happened recently at the library. We’ve just been plodding along! We had our busiest week last week, with over 1000 assignments due in, which meant students queueing up to use staplers, printers and laptops. It was only a tiny bit stressful in the end, as most of them were fairly well-prepared and hadn’t left everything until the very last minute. Of course, you always get one or two exceptions… This week is the start of the three-week Easter break for the majority of students (some run on a different calendar), so we’re getting about 30% of the visitors we had last week, and life on the issue counter is a bit more sedate. I’ve been working on a spreadsheet detailing our journals holdings (print and e-) and that’s been keeping me occupied for the last few weeks! The end is in sight, though, and I’m hoping I can get it finished before the long weekend, so I can start looking at some of the other stuff I want to do (more spreadsheets, mostly) next week. That’s about it for now, though – nothing super-exciting. I’m just looking forward to the Easter weekend – I really need the rest!

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December Training Session: Presentation Skills

I’ve just done a very brave thing. Well – not very brave, but still, it took some guts to do this, and I’ve never been brave enough to do it before. You may have already guessed that it’s something to do with presentation skills, and you’d be right – I just watched myself doing a presentation on camera. Like, probably, most people (everyone I’ve spoken to about it, anyway), I hate seeing or hearing recorded versions of myself. I never ever watched the DVDs they made of us doing our mock Spanish oral exams, because it would have just been unbearable. However, I watched this one. Why? Because I felt good giving this presentation. For possibly the first time ever, I felt relaxed and unpressured while talking, and I thought it’d be interesting to see what that looks like. Turns out it looks alright. I mean, it wasn’t perfect by a long shot, like, seriously, what was my hair doing?! And why can’t I stand upright properly? And I still went bright red. But the actual talking and giving people information bit, that was pretty good. And I think that’s partly down to the fact that we’d had a really good training the week before about giving good presentations, which I will now proceed to tell you about.

We turned up to the session having been told to bring a three-minute presentation about anything we wanted, and I’ll admit to being pretty nervous about this, because my preparation style is somewhat haphazard, and I’m a big fan of such concepts as “leaving things to the last minute” and “winging it”. So I had put some photos of tapas together on some slides the night before, done a rough scripty thing in my head, and just trusted myself that I’d remember who Alfonso the Wise was. When the time came for presenting to the group, we all did quite well, and gave each other some good feedback. I really enjoyed this part of the session as we’ve built up a good group atmosphere in our trainings that means we can feel comfortable with each other. It was really interesting watching everyone’s presentations and finding out about everyone’s specialist subjects, which ranged from Doctor Who to British cinema to Scarborough. The other interesting part was getting the feedback. It’s easy to be critical of yourself and so it was good to get other people’s perspectives. I was convinced I was speaking at about 100000 mph but everyone wrote that I was enthusiastic and energetic, so that made me feel better about being quite a “lively” speaker.

After this we had the theory part of the session, where we picked up some helpful tips from Paul the trainer, who seems to have had a hundred jobs and who knows a lot of useful people. Paul is a very engaging presenter, even once getting a room full of people excited about some old University buildings at our new staff induction session, so I think we all felt like we were getting some very reliable advice here. Paul had done some good research on what makes a good presenter, and according to him these qualities include competence, poise, commitment and dynamism. Apparently the more you like someone, the more receptive you will be to their message, so it’s important not to be a distant or closed-off presenter. We’ve all had those presentations where the speaker is talking to their shoes or the screen more than they’re engaging with you, and we all know how tedious and uncomfortable those presentations can get.

Paul’s tips for a good PowerPoint or similar presentation are: keep it simple. Clean text and not too much of it. A good rule is the 6×7 rule: no more than 6 lines per slide, and no more than 7 words per line. Make your visuals interesting – the “full bleed” picture option on PowerPoint is one of my new favourite things – and don’t go crazy with slide transitions.

As far as content goes, the lesson was that structure is very important. Have a beginning, middle and end. Use a “hook” and a “promise” at the beginning – the hook is something impactful, like a controversial statement, a statistic, or a question, followed by the promise, which has a handy acronym: INTRO. Interest your audience with the hook, then tell them why they Need to listen to you, give them a Title, outline the Range of key themes, and give them an Objective: “by the end of this presentation, …”. The key is to interest people with all types of learning styles, so you need to answer these four questions – Why am I here? What are you talking about? How will this work? What if…? This ensures that you’ve got planners, reflectors, and everyone else onside. The end of your presentation is the part that people will remember, so you’ve got to reinforce the message here. Revisit the promise and show how you’ve fulfilled it, then give the audience something like a summary statement or a “thank you” so that they know you’re finished.

The really interesting part of the session was when Paul shared the stuff he’d learned from teacher training and from a lecturer in acting. In teaching you are taught to stand by the door of the classroom to welcome the pupils in the morning, and this shows that you’re welcoming them into your environment. This is a technique you can use as a presenter – arrive early, and be in the room before the audience. Acknowledge them when they arrive so they know it’s your space they’re coming into. Moving a piece of furniture can show ownership of the space as well. A useful acting tip was on grounding yourself – a natural reaction to the pressure of presenting is for adrenaline to rush to your extremities (the fight or flight response), making you fidget with nervous energy. This can be distracting, so you should teach yourself to stay “grounded”, or rooted to the spot, by adopting a stance that is very balanced. Apparently actors stand on pencils to make themselves more aware of where their feet are!

There are loads of other things I could mention that we learned, but you get the general idea. The session was really informative and helpful, and we went away feeling a lot better about the next session, where we would be filmed giving another presentation. For this one I tried to take some of the lessons we’d learned on board, especially making the PowerPoint slides look pretty. Of course I didn’t do much more preparation than usual, but I did make sure I was informed enough to speak confidently about the topic (the origins of the Oxford English Dictionary, if you’re interested. It’s a really good story, especially the bits about William Chester Minor). Having now watched it back, I think I did a good job of it. I need to work on grounding myself still, and the ending was weak (this is definitely down to my off-the-cuff haven’t-thought-about-a-proper-ending preparation technique, which I’m willing to admit needs refining), but the speed and pacing were good, and I didn’t even sound like I was from the West Country (I’m not), unlike on my podcasts.

I’m really glad I got the chance to go to this training and to get some really great advice which I know will be indispensable in the future. My next go at presenting will be to real, live, actual students, when I get to team-teach a Library Induction session. I’m excited to present to strangers, as I haven’t done it much, and I love a challenge. Of course I’ll let you know how it goes!

One of my pretty slides from my OED presentation.

One of my pretty slides from my OED presentation.

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