The First Time: Presenting on a Panel at #ala12

There are so many blog ideas rolling around in my head after my 3-day stint at ALA Annual in Anaheim that I barely know where to start.  So, I’ll start with some self-reflection on my first presentation for ALA.  I’ve done a few poster sessions, but have never done a formal, room-assigned, in the program talk before this year.

I was invited by Florante Ibanez,  author of Filipinos in Carson, to participate in the panel, “So You Think You Can Write: Librarians (and friends) Gather and Preserve Our Community History”.  The topic could be interpreted in a lot of different ways.  I could’ve described the process of publishing the book from start to finish – I could’ve discussed the contents of the books – I could’ve even discussed the history of Hawaiians in Los Angeles.  Since there were 4 other panelists, though, and we all, more or less had similar processes, I decided to go with a more political slant and focus on the challenges we had writing HILA in relationship to community politics, some of which stem back to colonization and the overthrow of the government.

My first problem was that I decided not to write a script.  Lately when I’ve been doing public speaking engagements (such as our thank yous at our book launch and my memories of my grandmother at her funeral), I’ve been writing down what I’m going to say instead of winging it.  This isn’t really typical for me.  Usually I write a general outline and speak off the cuff – at least that’s what I more or less did in Grad School and College.  And, apparently, I feel, I should’ve done that for this presentation.  For my Thesis Defense, I wrote a detailed outline and spoke from there.  This time, I wrote a brief outline of the points and dates I wanted to hit on my iPad and didn’t provide notes for each slide.  I figured I could tell the story from my slide points and go from there.  I also wanted to shape my talk based upon what the others were going to say so that there wasn’t too much overlap in our discussion of process.  Which I started to do during the first speaker.  I was getting pumped and had really great points I wanted to add to my presentation.  She was doing more of a history lesson of her book rather than a discussion of process so there was some additional stuff I wanted to talk about.

And then the fire alarm went off.

And we had to evacuate the building.

And all of those thoughts left my head and I was only left with the few notes on my iPad and a sense of being rattled and thrown off my game.

After they let us back in and I was the first one up after the evacuation, I feel like I fumbled my way through the presentation.  I feel like I wasn’t linear in my descriptions and I often got ahead of myself.  And since I went second and the audience had little idea of the process, discussing my challenges was actually not the best idea.  Because I was assuming that they were coming in with an idea of collecting photos and stories and stuff like that.  And they really weren’t.

Another thing that threw me was when I started discussing the role of missionaries in the loss of Hawaiian language and the decline of Hawaiian education attainment that (I thought/interpreted) an audience member in the back was making faces of displeasure and that I had hit a nerve.  Which didn’t necessarily upset me, but it threw me a little, and I suddenly realized that I wasn’t sure if the other panelists understood what I meant when I said I was going to discuss sovereignty and Hawaiian politics and my position on them.  And I didn’t want to make anyone mad.  But, I did a little bit, too, which is why I went on to further discuss politics of blood quantum and government shenanigans dealing with Native Hawaiians.  But not as eloquently as I wanted and probably not as clearly either, since by then I had abandoned the notes on my ipad and was free-balling it.

I think what might have also helped my presentation was setting out specific questions to answer for the panel.  I felt like I didn’t have much direction and that usually throws me.  I didn’t take the time to really think about what the audience might want to know and since I didn’t know what order I was going in, I should’ve made extra slides and such to cover stuff that might not have been covered already.  In hindsight, I think that if I had gone 3rd or 4th my presentation would’ve made more sense.

So, here is what I’m going to do differently for my presentation at SAA in August:

  • Have a script/super detailed notes for every slide
  • Create a list of questions to answer if the moderator doesn’t provide any
  • Have more confidence in my abilities as a public speaker
  • Find out what order we’re going in.  Now that I know more or less what the other panelist’s presentations look like, I know that I can fill in gaps and still promote the same message.  Just add in other ideas and processes of the book to flush it out.
  • Tailor it to Archivists.  One of the problems with ALA is that it covers so many different types of librarians that its hard to tailor your answers to just one.  What was nice about our panel was that we had an academic librarian, a public librarian, a law school librarian, and two historical society representatives.  I should have spoken more about being a public librarian and how that influenced my work.

Hindsight is 20/20, but now that I’ve had that experience (and an unusual one at that with the fire alarm!) I know that I can’t go anywhere but up.  My presentations at SAA and JCLC should be much improved.

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5 thoughts on “The First Time: Presenting on a Panel at #ala12

  1. Learning curves are like roller coasters. It’s a long way up before you can stick your hands up in the air and scream “Wheeeeee!” 😉

  2. Wow, I’m just reading this blog post now, and it’s surprising that you have this impression of your talk! It was really good–honest! (P.S. I had no cash/checks at ALA, so still need to get a copy of your book from you!)

    • Thanks, Ashley! People who were there have mostly looked at me like I’m crazy when I tell them how I felt about the presentation, so I guess it’s just me being hard on myself. I did, though, feel much better at my presentation on Friday having a script, so maybe that’s the route to take now. I should have people who heard both compare the two and tell me which was better 🙂

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