I am not one of those people — like Steven Cohen or Jessamyn — who is very comfortable giving talks. No matter how well I know the material, I still get insanely nervous when I have to get up in front of people to talk. I’ve never had a talk go badly, but it doesn’t change the way I react to the situation internally. Obviously, while looking for a job, I had to give a lot of interview presentations, and every one was extremely stressful for me. So when I was asked to give a talk to the folks administering the Online Graduate Programs about technologies we can use to reach distance learners, I had mixed feelings. I was excited to be able to make valuable connections with these faculty members and administrators, to do some wiki-evangelizing, and to show them what we at the library have to offer them. But I was very very nervous.
I ended up speaking about IM Reference, wikis, and screencasting as I had limited time and those were things we are either already using or will soon be using at our library. I had slides and notes prepared as I always do (the notes held in my shaking hands), but I didn’t end up using them so much in this talk. About 2 minutes into my schpiel, I was interrupted by one of the faculty members in the room who asked me lots of specific questions about screencasting. And instead of being annoyed at being interrupted, I was relieved. I liked answering their questions much more than I liked talking at them for 20 minutes, because I knew I was talking about things that were interesting/useful to them. They asked terrific questions about practical applications of all the technologies (wikis in particular), and I was happy to be grilled if it meant that they could see the possibilities of using social software in their work. Instead of being flustered, I found that I was much more in my element being interrogated than I was giving a prepared talk.
That night, I got an email from the Dean of the Online Graduate Program asking if he could meet with me to talk about an idea he had and how I think wikis could be used for that project. The next morning I got a call from another faculty member about using wikis internally. The head of one of the graduate programs wants to integrate wikis into his classes immediately for use in group projects. It’s pretty amazing that these big tenured faculty members, these division heads, would listen to some young, newly-minted librarian! Like I said last week, what you can offer faculty is more important than what title you have.
Now I just need to figure out how I can turn every talk I have to give into an interrogation and I’ll have it made in the shade!