I was recently fortunate enough to attend the UX Libs II Conference in sunny Manchester (well, it was sunny one of the days!). For anyone not aware, the UX Libs events are for people interested in user experience (UX) research. The first UX Libs Conference was held in Cambridge last year, which sadly I wasn’t able to attend but I followed the tweets from afar.

The first conference focused predominantly on sharing different methods you can use to support UX research and was very practical in focus (attendees were assigned teams to work on a research project in one of Cambridge’s libraries). The second conference focused more on sharing what had happened since the first conference (a lot!) as well as a group challenge on advocacy to help us think about ways to engage others in the approach.

It was a packed schedule (I’m really not a fan of 9am starts!), and we were kept very busy; the variety of different types of activities was good. We had keynote presentations, practical presentations, group work, and workshops. I really enjoyed both workshops I attended and wish I could have attended all four!

There’s a lot I want to digest from the conference, but my initial points to share are listed below:

Thinking about our own user experiences can help us reflect on what library users may be experiencing
I do this a lot when I’m away – I had a fantastic experience at Hershey a few weeks ago for example and it caused me to think more about the type of experience I can offer, as well as the experience libraries can offer – in a similar way that my trip to Disney and Universal did (I previously blogged about this). I was really impressed with the way the attendee badges were personalised (thank you Matt!) and it was nice to see the organising committee thinking about how to enhance our experience (the badges wished speakers good luck for their session for example, a very nice touch).

Training and encouragement is crucial to the success of a UX project (and I would imagine any research)
This was a particularly key point in one of my favourite sessions from the conference, Helen Murphy and Rachel Claire Walker’s session on what they learnt from their UX research across a number of libraries at University of Cambridge. Their main lesson was the fact that staff in the libraries they were working with would have appreciated more training and encouragement, and this finding was echoed in many of the other practical workshops. Even if we’re familiar with a research method (but especially if we’re not!) the importance of support and encouragement can’t be underestimated in my opinion.

Different types of research outputs are to be encouraged
Something that was mentioned in quite a few of the keynotes and workshops was the fact that the best form of research output isn’t always a huge written report (thank goodness, most of us sigh in relief!). There are some people who love writing long reports, and some who love reading them, but for the most part it’s far more likely that people will want the highlights from the research in summary form, with additional data should they want to delve deeper. Research findings may be shared using presentation (by that I’m including slides but also just verbal presentations), an executive summary document, a blog post, an infographic, or simply by sharing recommendations. The main point here was to consider the needs of those who will be using the research outputs as well as the time taken to produce the research output (to ensure the findings are still relevant).

Failure should be embraced and shared more openly
This is something I was so pleased to see encouraged at the conference. I’ve been saying for a while now that I’d love to organise an event where people shared the things that haven’t quite gone as planned, a Library Fail Conference if you will. Somehow I think selling this to some people could be tricky! UX Libs took an interesting approach to this though, with the workshops falling into either ‘Nailed’ (things that have gone well), ‘Failed’ (things that haven’t gone so well), and ‘Derailed’ (things that have adapted or been delayed). Excellent rhyming there too; I approve. It’s so useful to share these things though, to take time to reflect on why and learn from this ourselves, and also to share with others to help them as well as get insight from them if they have experienced similar. Most session proposals were for ‘Nailed’ sessions, but I think (and hope!) we might see that changing over time at future conferences (not just UX Libs Conferences) as we become more comfortable with sharing the things that haven’t gone so well.

We are all leaders
We were asked by Donna Lanclos at the opening keynote of the conference to raise our hands if we are leaders. About half the room raised their hands, when in fact she argued everyone should have. I support the notion that we are all leaders in some way – whether that be leading a team, leading a service, leading a project, leading change… (I actually asked the same question at my SLA workshop and also argued that everyone should have raised their hand!). Over the conference there was quite a lot of discussion about leadership and change management and we were encouraged to consider how to do this in our own roles and in our own organisations. It’s not easy by any means, but it’s crucial to develop our services and keep current.

Librarians are great
As with many of the lessons I learned, this wasn’t anything new, but a very pertinent reminder. The result of the EU Referendum was the final day of the conference and it certainly had an impact on the mindset of many of us that day. I found it very odd to wake up in a hotel on my own to the news that the UK had voted to leave the EU. I was disappointed (I’d voted to remain), and felt very out of sorts about why my vote was in a minority, and what implications the result of the vote might have. When I got to the conference I felt instantly comforted by the supportive environment of others there, who were going through similar thoughts but were there to offer hugs and reassurance that whatever happens to the future of the country, as librarians we will continue to share and help each other, within the UK and further afield. Hooray for librarians! 🙂

My conference experience

I started the conference with this tweet:

You can probably guess what’s coming:

So I may have gone against my goal of not presenting by volunteering to present for my team, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the UX Libs II conference. I particularly enjoyed the workshops in the second afternoon, which enabled me to do some (terrible) drawing, and some highly important foam crimping. Aside from the silliness, I learnt a lot in both these workshops.

Process interview with picture. My drawing is terrible but useful process! #uxlibs

A photo posted by Jo Alcock (@joeyanne) on


Doing some crimping in Andy’s cultural probes workshop (photo from Andy’s blog)

What next?

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to put many of the ethnographic research methods into practice in my work yet, but would love to do so in future. I do a lot of interviews in my current role, but they’re mostly over the phone (and usually with librarians). I’d love to do more in person interviews with users and use additional prompts (whether it be observations or things like cognitive maps).

I’m also still fascinated about whether libraries can learn from the retail world and would love to do some experimental research into this. For example, does changing the layout of part of the library change how people use the space? Do changes in layout/book storage/availability of bags affect borrowing? Has anyone done any research into this sort of thing in your library, or would you like to? Let me know if so!

Thanks to all involved in making UX Libs a thoroughly enjoyable conference 🙂

Last week I attended the 39th UKSG Conference and Exhibition, held in Bournemouth. For those who don’t know, UKSG is an organisation that brings together all stakeholders involved in provided resources to users; it was initially the UK Serials Group but has since expanded to incorporate all types of resources (largely electronic). The conferences include both librarians and publishers, as well as others such as consultants and researchers, and it’s one of the most mixed conferences I’ve attended in terms of representation from publishers and suppliers as well as librarians. It also has a number of international attendees. I have attended once UKSG Conference before (in 2013) but this time I’m more involved in the community as I support both JUSP and IRUS-UK services (Jisc-funded usage statistics services for UK institutions). I was co-presenting a breakout session so presented on two days with my co-presenters Jo Lambert (Jisc) and Graham Stone (University of Huddersfield). I used this opportunity to practice my story telling, and will reflect on this aspect more in a separate post. For now though I wanted to share some initial thoughts about the conference.

I really enjoyed the conference – even more so than I was hoping to. Although I support JUSP and IRUS-UK, my role is one of evaluation and user support so I don’t work with electronic resources or open access directly. Despite this, there was a lot I took of value from the conference. Some of it was incredibly thought-provoking (e.g. Ann Rossiter’s plenary where she outlined the reasons why publishers need to embrace open access publishing, Dave Parkes’ breakout session on the Psychogeography of Libraries, and Emma Mulqueeny’s plenary on those born in 1997 or later); some of it was useful to me in my current role (e.g. Hugh Murphy’s breakout on metrics in academic libraries); and some of it got me thinking about things I’d love to do more of in future (e.g. Donna Lanclos’ plenary on ethnographic approaches, Dr Sarah Pittaway’s plenary on student engagement, and Sarah Roughley and Sarah Bull’s breakout session on market research in libraries). I also really enjoyed visiting the exhibition stands, catching up with professional contacts, and meeting new people.

Whilst I was there, I made daily video reflections. I’d watched Jess Haigh’s videos from LILAC Conference and really enjoyed them so decided I’d like to give it a go. My videoing definitely needs some refinement (one thing for sure is that I need to make shorter videos so they’re not such a hassle to upload and easier to watch!), but I enjoyed reflecting in this way. I even managed to do this whilst taking time out for fresh air on days 2 and 3 (the gorgeous weather helped!) and I particularly enjoyed doing that – I didn’t even mind the fact that I got some very strange looks from those who saw me (I did attract some video bombing on the pier!). I tend to take time out at conferences to reflect anyway, so recording it just made me think things through a little more comprehensively which was useful. I hope it might be of interest to some people who weren’t able to attend too. If you’re interested, here are my videos…

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Overall, I was really impressed with the UKSG Conference. The event was extremely well organised; there was plenty of time between sessions and in the breaks and lunches which always helps. I had some fascinating conversations and am sure many of them will continue long after the conference. I’m planning to think about ways I can take forward some of the things I found particularly interesting (largely around research in libraries and enabling others to do research in libraries), and will be looking out for opportunities to get involved. I’d also like to attend UKSG in future and will definitely look out for ways to support the event. I enjoyed presenting a breakout session so will definitely consider this conference in future if I have things I think attendees would be interesting in learning about.

I haven’t blogged about a conference for a while, largely as I tend to tweet any highlights, and I prefer to write reflectively rather than descriptive as many of my previous conference blog posts were. However, this week I attended CILIP Conference 2015 and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to blog some of my highlights as I reflect now it’s over. It’s caused me to think about things differently, and really opened my mind to some things I hadn’t previously fully appreciated. 

The keynotes

The keynote sessions I attended were varied in terms of background and topic, as well as their approach to the talk (since doing more public speaking I often find myself examining the way others present whilst listening to the content). One of the things I loved about CILIP Umbrella 2013 was the keynotes, specifically the fact that there was something to be taken from each keynote for everyone in the audience. That’s not an easy thing with as varied an audience you will find at CILIP conferences – there will be librarians and information workers from such a variety of different sectors and organisations. I was really pleased to discover the same was true from the keynotes this year; regardless of background I am sure there was at least one take home point for everyone in the audience for each talk. The overarching themes all had relevance to the library and information profession, and they celebrated our similarities as a profession rather than highlighting our differences. The speakers were inspirational and at times challenging, and gave me a lot to think about. They spoke with passion and emotion, and drew the audience in. 

One keynote in particular really touched me; Erwin James. He spoke honestly about his journey including some of his early life, his time in prison, his rehabilitation (supported hugely by the prison library), and a little about his time since release. The nature of his story was of course highly emotional, but some of what he talked about, particularly the importance of hope and valuing yourself was a pertinent reminder of just how crucial that is, and how important other people can be in helping us get to a better place if we start to lose that hope or perception of our value. I found his story fascinating, and his delivery so natural; I was completely transfixed during the talk, and even now, a few hours later, I am still mulling over some of what he shared this afternoon. 

The exhibition

I took some time after lunch on the first day of the conference to explore the exhibition and chat to the exhibitors. The lure of the iPad competition helped initially (to enter the draw you had to collect a sticker from each exhibitor – an idea that works well), but I found that I was really enjoying chatting to the exhibitors and learning more about what they offer. Realistically, in my role I’m very unlikely to be purchasing anything from the exhibitors, but I may know someone who might want to, and I feel far more informed now than I did two days ago! I learned about some new products and services, and was able to share some of my experiences with those who were there to understand more about the current state of the profession. I enjoyed myself so much that I ended up staying in the exhibition all afternoon! I’ll definitely be making an effort to spend more time in the exhibition at future conferences; the exhibitors help make the conference what it is by providing funding and sponsorship, and they’re all there to help the profession. Often I feel like the exhibitors are seen as sales people, and of course some of them are, but that’s just one part of who they are and I had a really good time getting to know them and their products/services. 

The people

The library and information sector is full of fascinating people, and I’ve had some great conversations over the last few days. I spent time with people I’ve met at previous conferences, some I communicate with on social media, and some I’ve not met before. I’ve spoken to fellow delegates, exhibitors, and CILIP staff. Without exception everyone I spoke to had something interesting to share, and I really enjoyed being able to learn more about the diverse roles within our profession. 

The sense of community

As a librarian who doesn’t really work in a library (I’m technically part of the library in terms of structure, but I don’t spend any time in the library), and doesn’t do any librarian tasks any more, often taking on more of a consultancy role or that of a trainer I can find that sometimes I’m not sure where my ‘home’ is in terms of professional organisations. However, the common thread across all my work is that it supports other librarians, and I found that I not only got value from the content of the conference (which is difficult given the unusual nature of my role!) but also felt like I was part of a community, and not just that but a really excellent community (or perhaps ‘awesome’ is a more appropriate term as R. David Lankes used in his keynote!). 

Perhaps I’m getting better at explaining what it is I do, or perhaps the current projects I work on are things that are a bit easier to explain, but so many people made me feel welcome and commented that my role sounded really interesting. Often I feel like I need to use the caveat, “Well I’m not really a librarian any more”, but aside from a few early conversations in the exhibition I didn’t do this often at all at the CILIP Conference; I didn’t need to because everyone accepted and respected the fact that our profession is so diverse, and I really felt like I belonged there. 

The support

Since learning more about the things that drive me and the things I’m really passionate about, I’ve been able to share these with people and am fortunate to have been able to start to work on some of them.  The day before the CILIP Conference was the launch of the CILIP Leadership Programme, which is something I’ve been wanting to see come into fruition for a long time and am delighted to be part of. I was very touched by how supportive people have been during both the programme launch and the conference; some people very kindly thanked me for the part I’ve played in getting to where we are, and others have offered their own support to help towards the programme. It’s wonderful to be part of something that I’m so passionate about, and to find others who feel the same and really want to make the programme a success. So many people, both CILIP staff and CILIP members, have already been incredibly helpful and supportive, and I really appreciate it (and am sure the participants do too). 

I also presented at the conference about a couple of work projects, and spoke to a number of people outside the sessions about some of the other things I’m passionate about. Again I was bowled over by how supportive people were, and had some really exciting conversations. It’s great to find people who have similar passions or who really see the benefit in what you want to do. 


I really enjoyed the CILIP Conference and think this will be a conference I will aim to attend each year if I can. I love the cross-sectoral nature of the event, both in terms of content focus and delegates. Of course I do think there are some things that could be improved, and I have some ideas which I will be including in my feedback form, but overall it was a truly excellent event and one I’m sure I’ll be thinking about for a long time. 

What next?

I still find it helpful to use the ‘What next?’ question to encourage me to think about how I might apply what I have learnt for future, and in fact I’m likely to be getting back into the habit of more regular reflective writing, so what am I going to do as a result of the conference?

Firstly, I’ll be making sure the CILIP Events team get feedback from me via the feedback survey to help with future planning, so I’ll be sharing all the positives as well as some future considerations such as improving time keeping (or restructuring the day to help with this) and encouraging people from all sectors to share a bit about their work. I’d like to see something like a “Day in the life of a…” strand where you can go along and hear people talk a little bit about what they do. I’d love to learn more about the different roles within the profession and would like to see something fairly informal/conversational (so it’s not a huge undertaking for people who are willing to share) and interactive so people can ask questions about what it is like to work in different parts of the sector. 

Secondly, I’m going to be mulling over Erwin’s talk for a while but his message about the importance of hope I think will stick with me. It’s very pertinent for me at the moment and I’m going to be thinking about what that means for me, as well as how I can support others when they’re not feeling so good. I’d also like to learn more about prison libraries, and would really like to either visits one or speak to a prison librarians about their work (if anyone is reading this who is a prison librarian, or knows one, please let me know!). 

Thirdly, I had a bit of an epiphany during an impact masterclass when I suddenly realised that although I support libraries in demonstrating their impact, I don’t actually do this for my own work. I’m planning to discuss this with my manager and hopefully do some follow up work to understand more about the impact of workshops I have delivered. 

I’m also going to be registering for CILIP Fellowship soon, and plan to attend CILIP Conference next year if I can. I feel really invigorated after the conference, and despite the tiredness I also feel mentally refreshed and enthused (hence writing this blog post straight away!). 

I highly recommend the CILIP Conference – it’s a great event to attend to open your mind and inspire (and possibly challenge your views), and to help you learn more about the profession as a whole – there’s so many similarities despite the differences, and CILIP Conference offers a unique opportunity to bring people together to discuss this on a broader level. 

Another year has flown past and it’s time for my annual review – you can see previous ones for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

2013 has been a funny old year; nothing particularly terrible has happened, but I haven’t felt as positive as I usually do and this has been reflected by a decrease in blogging and use of social media. It’s not all bad though, as another reason for this decrease is a continuation of what I mentioned last year as a major lesson – trying to achieve a more sustainable work-life balance. This year I’ve been doing a lot of other hobbies – for some months I was regularly running, I’ve been learning nail art (and building quite a large collection of nail polishes!), I’ve learnt to crochet, and I’ve been doing lots of knitting. Oh, and I’ve become a little addicted to Grey’s Anatomy. There have also been some professional achievements during the year, so I’m going to take the opportunity to highlight those as I have done in previous years.

2013 highlights

2013 highlights

Top left: Entering the CILIP offices for the final day of my secondment
Top right: Attendees at one of my CILIP Umbrella Conference breakout sessions
Bottom left: One of my CILIP Update columns
Bottom right: Lean In book by Sheryl Sandberg (image from Google Books)

One major thing this year has been my part-time secondment to CILIP for the Future Skills Project. Between May and November, two days of my working week were spent on the project along with another project worker, Julie Griffiths. Our focus was to work on the recommendations from the Future Skills project board to prepare for the launch of the new Professional Registration (previously referred to as CILIP Qualifications). We worked on the assessment criteria, the assessment process, the handbooks, and online support materials for Certification, Chartership, Fellowship, and Revalidation. For revalidation we reviewed the process and made it much more straight forward to submit on an annual basis, rather than a large portfolio every 3 years. We also provided training for a number of specific groups related to Professional Registration – the Professional Registration Assessment Board, Mentor Support Officers, and Candidate Support Officers. After a successful member vote in November, the new scheme has now launched and people are starting to use it. I hope they find it clearer than the previous system, and I know CILIP staff will be working hard to support everyone involved to make it a relatively smooth transition. The project was really interesting to work on, and totally different from my day job; the variety was good for me, and I enjoyed working with lots of different CILIP members. It was also really good to get to know more of the CILIP staff, who are lovely and made myself and Julie feel very welcome. I feel honoured to have been able to work on the project and the experience has certainly been a highlight of my year.

Towards the end of last year, I made a conscious decision to not attend as many conferences in 2013 as I had in 2012. This was a tough decision; I absolutely love conferences and learn so much from them, both through the sessions I attend and the conversations I have with people I meet at conferences. However, I find them pretty draining, particularly when I have a presentation to prepare for and deliver (though I love doing it and it is a really important part of my role as a researcher). I knew though that attending too many conferences could reach a stage where it impacts on my work, as it’s not just the time out at the conference, but the preparation time before and reflection time after. I knew I needed to prioritise so that I wasn’t spending as much time outside working hours doing activities relating to conferences.

I decided to only submit proposals for CILIP Umbrella Conference, which is a conference I’ve never been able to attend previously. I was delighted to discover that both my proposals had been successful, though of course that meant quite a bit of work ahead of me. I was very fortunate to be working with two fantastic co-presenters who made the whole process enjoyable, and I really enjoyed the conference. The keynotes were excellent as no matter what sector you work in, there was something to take from them all. I also really enjoyed a leadership panel discussion I attended, and breakout sessions on continuing professional development.

I was invited to present at other events, and although I couldn’t fit them all into my schedule, I was able to accept some and really enjoyed the opportunity to speak about topics that interest me. I presented workshops on tools and techniques to improve productivity; getting the most out of professional development; using mobile technologies in libraries; and at Internet Librarian International I was invited to share my experiences as a learner on a MOOC (see my previous blog post for further information on MOOCs). You can see a full list of the presentations I gave in 2013 on my Presentations page.

Another highlight of 2013 for me has been writing a column for CILIP Update. This followed on from an article I wrote for the magazine in 2012 on the Getting Things Done methodology, and this year I have written tips and advice on a number of different themes to do with improving productivity. I received some really positive feedback on the column and know some people have found the ideas useful in changing their own practice. I’ve drafted a blog post to summarise the key points from the column and will share that soon – in the meantime, the columns are available from my Publications page.

Something else I’ve enjoyed in 2013 is the Library Leadership Reading Group (LLRG). I started this after the CILIP in Wales 2012 conference on leadership, and since then have hosted discussions on ten different readings relating to leadership. I’ve found the discussions really useful – sometimes I haven’t really enjoyed reading the book but after the discussion have taken more from it due to other people’s perspectives after reading it. I’ve been tending to create a Storify of each discussion and you can see them linked from the LLRG Google document. At the moment we’re reading a book on change management, Our Iceberg is Melting, which we’re likely to discuss in January. Keep an eye on the #llrg tag on Twitter if you’re interested in joining us, everyone is welcome. One particular highlight of LLRG for me this year has been reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I absolutely loved it and it has had a huge influence on my life. I’ve discussed parts of the book with so many different people, and continue to think about some of the things mentioned in the book when I have to make decisions. I’ve also become part of a Lean In circle which has been a very positive experience for me.

So there we go, my personal highlights for the year. I hope you have enjoyed 2013, and whether or not you celebrate New Year I hope you have the opportunity to mark the beginning of 2014 in some way. I’m looking forward to a fresh start, beginning with a potential break of tradition (something I very rarely do!). First though, I shall be trying some new cocktails tonight including the one below – cheers!

…here a MOOC, there a MOOC, everywhere a MOOC MOOC! That’s what it seems like at the moment anyway – everyone seems to be talking about MOOCs at the moment.

I was invited to give a presentation about MOOCs at Internet Librarian International 2013 Conference earlier this month. Since it might not be a familiar term to everyone, let’s backtrack a bit and cover some of the basics.

What on earth is a MOOC?

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. The name is fairly explanatory but it’s useful to break that down a bit. In order to be classed as a MOOC, a course needs to be:

  • Online
  • Open to anyone to join
  • Able to handle a large number of participants

Most MOOCs are free for participants, though I’m hesitant to say they have to be free to be classed as a MOOC as there are likely to be some exceptions (though is it still open to all if there is a cost involved in addition to the cost of online access?).

Could you give me some examples of MOOCs?

Many MOOCs use a platform to deliver their material and this also helps participants to find them. Probably the most well known platform for MOOCs is Coursera, which has a number of universities signed up to provide courses. There’s also EdX (supported by Google), iversity, OpenupEd, and recently launched FutureLearn which is UK based (though also has international partners). Some providers opt to use their own system, or their own installation of another platform such as Blackboard CourseSites.

Who participates in MOOCs?

Well, they’re open to anyone, though in my experience it tends to be those looking for extra CPD opportunities and generally those who already have an educational background (i.e. have studied for a degree). Of course the nature of MOOCs means that they could be taken by those who may be interested in a subject but for whatever reason don’t want to (or can’t) study a traditional course in the subject, hence widening participation to education.

I’ve participated in a 23 Things course, is that a MOOC?

It could be, yes. In the case of 23 Things for Professional Development (CPD23) it was massive (though not as massive as some courses – I recently took one that had over 200,000 participants enrolled!), open, and online, and people completed the course at the same time (as cohorts) so I would class it as a MOOC.

So MOOCs have been growing with more platforms being launched and more institutions signing up to deliver them. I’ve been interested in them for a little while, partly to support my development, and partly because I was curious as to how they would work and how librarians could support them. I signed up for Coursera and have now completed two courses with them. I was invited to share my experiences as a learner at the Internet Librarian International pre-conference workshop and found it really useful to evaluate my experiences and think about what I’ve learnt from them and how I could apply this. In a nutshell, though I successfully completed both my courses, I much preferred one of them. The main reasons for this were:

  • I found the topic fascinating
  • I was able to apply what I had learnt in practice in work and social situations
  • The reading materials were provided as part of the course, and easily accessible
  • The combination of lectures, readings, documentaries and assignments helped to cement my new knowledge

A copy of my slides is embedded below – the first few slides are about my background to provide the context for the learner’s perspective (and the cat slide is *totally* relevant as I talked about how naturally curious I am!):

The discussions we had during the workshop were really interesting – we considered how libraries (predominantly academic) could support MOOCs, particularly for those whose institutions had already signed up to provide MOOCs or were planning to. We heard from Gavin Beattie from King’s College London who launch their first course on FutureLearn in January, and the group included people from a number of different organisations who were planning to provide MOOCs in future. Many of the ideas from the discussions were similar to the ways we can support other activities such as information literacy and mobile technologies in libraries, with suggestions such as:

  • Providing information to academics so they are aware how the library can help them with their MOOC
  • Getting involved with MOOC discussions with colleagues across your institution
  • Discussing ideas with other librarians and share best practice across the sector

It seems the skills required for these activities are essential for today’s librarians. I’m sure we’ll be hearing about MOOCs and libraries in future events, it certainly seemed to be a hot topic at Internet Librarian International, both in the pre-conference workshop and at the main conference (if the tweets are anything to go by anyway!).

Is your library involved in supporting MOOCs? Is there anything else we should be doing to support our institutions as they provide MOOCs?

I'm not sure if this is really the best method of persuasion...

I’m not sure if this is really the best method of persuasion…

Earlier this week I attended a training session on persuasive speaking, hosted by Future Faces Birmingham. It was delivered by Mimi Hughes of Business Voice. I wasn’t too sure what to expect to be honest, but it proved to be an excellent workshop which I learnt a lot from, particularly about speaking skills.

Mimi began the event by getting us to think about what we mean by persuasive speaking and when we need to persuade. We concluded that in almost any working relationship, we need to utilise persuasion skills – to get people to listen to us, to work collaboratively, or to delegate work, as well as the more immediate examples such as selling, negotiating, or asking for a promotion/payrise.

We were then introduced to the three main components of persuasiveness:

  1. Presence
  2. Message
  3. Mechanism

We also discussed personal impact and presentation skills which are important in all three components.

Mimi then asked some very brave volunteers (she referred to them as ‘Have a go heroes’ which I liked as a term) to come to the front and speak to the rest of the room about their organisation. They only had a minute to speak and they were recorded, and then we all watched them back (see what I mean when I said they were very brave! In return they got some really useful feedback). This exercise was all about presence and the following tips were shared with us to help improve:

  • Opening lines and the way you start are key. Your audience makes a subconscious judgment before you have even spoken
  • Body language very important – stand squarely on to people and straight (keep confident)
  • Don’t stand behind desks or flip charts – need to show your presence
  • Your voice needs to reach out to people furthest away from you (you can practice this by projecting your voice against a wall and gradually moving further back)
  • Need to pause between key points – pausing is key in persuasion
  • Don’t use preparation words before each sentence (Ok, Right, Um) – know what you’re going to say and start on the positive words
  • Look like you’re interested in what you are saying in order to be interesting to others
  • Let your hands move if they want to – good to use your hands as they give out energy
  • Settle your hands in a comfortable middle position where they can move easily from (ideal position is joined together at the waist, not too low or behind you)
  • Movement is good as it adds energy – though needs to be definite, not just shuffling from side to side
  • Moving the face also important to show enthusiasm
  • Um and err are not too intrusive as long as they are not used excessively, though pausing is better
  • If you want to move when you start speaking, take a step forward not backwards
  • It’s good practice to engage with people as they enter the room and encourage people to respond to your greeting (ask for their name and what they do/how they are) as it helps breaks down barriers
  • Shaking hands and making positive eye contact is also good as again helps break down barriers
  • Good to tap into something your audience are familiar with and tap into their emotions

We then focused on the message element and how to tailor the message to maximise its effectiveness. Mimi emphasised the importance of focusing on the key idea(s) you are trying to get across, and considering how to ensure the audience (in broad terms, this could be just a one-to-one conversation) will take that away. In order to achieve this, the audience needs to be able to repeat the message and the best way to get to this is to keep the message clear and brief. In presentations, Mim recommended only aiming to talk for around 10 minutes, and dedicate longer time to Q&A to extend the dialogue and cement the message. We then completed an exercise preparing the key messages about our organisation using the following model:

Model for constructing message

Model for constructing message

In the model, the roof is the conclusion you want people to walk away with (you may mention what this is, but you may not). You want the audience to walk away with the conclusion based on the evidence you provide them with through the three pillars, which act as the different messages you deliver. Three is an ideal number, though you can manage with 2-4 (as can a building). 1 isn’t really enough to get them to believe in the conclusion, whilst too many will make the messages less memorable and weaken the argument. We did this as an activity with our own organisations and two more ‘Have a go heroes’ presented about their organisations using this model. You’ll probably also have noticed that Mimi practices what she preaches as our whole workshop was based on this model with the three components of persuasion as the three key messages.

We also discussed how to handle questions, which is a key part of helping get your message across. The main things here were to listen very carefully to the questions, and think about the answer you are going to give before speaking. You want to aim to “build, bridge, and reinforce” in your response so that you bring it back to your key messages and help cement that in their minds. You’ll also need to stay focused and keep it brief but tailored to the audience. If you don’t know the answer to the question, be cautious about winging it – if you don’t know enough to do so, be honest and tell the person you’ll find out and get back to them (and make sure you do). We also discussed hostility and Mimi warned us to be careful as we may be seeing nervousness and recognising it as hostility – generally, people won’t be hostile, and if they are, let it wash over you.

We briefly discussed the mechanics, such as using presentation slides only to illustrate the key messages but keeping the focus on what you’re going to say; making sure you have the right people for group presentations (some may need to be there to respond to questions but don’t need to present as too many can dilute the message); not leaning on lecturns or tables when speaking as this comes across as too relaxed and like you’re not really interested; and listen carefully in two-way conversations and again try to link what they are saying back to your key messages.

Mimi ended the workshop by sharing some exercises of things we can do to help improve our persuasive skills by improving our presence, message and mechanism. Some of them may seem a little silly at first (she got us up on our feet flopping our bodies over to help our posture, and reading stories aloud to practice our pitch and pausing), but I really think they’re going to be useful tools in helping improve my skills.

What next?

I’m currently preparing some conference presentations and webinars and found this workshop really useful for helping me plan these further. It’s caused me to reflect on the best way to use my allotted time, the materials I develop to support what I’m going to say, and the way I hope to present myself. I was really pleased to learn that it’s OK to use your hands when you talk as I naturally do this a lot and was worried it came across as too much arm flailing. Mimi reassured us that as long as it is natural, it’s very rare for it to come across as too much. One thing I know I need to work on is pausing. I tend to speak very quickly in normal conversation, and even moreso when the adrenaline is pumping and I’m giving presentations. I fill what little thinking time I allow myself with ‘um’ as well, so I’m hoping to practice talking more clearly and pausing when presenting key points to help them stand out.

I also have a training session next week on making presentations and giving briefings, so I’m hoping some of what I learnt in this workshop will be repeated and it might help it stick!

Closing the contract

Closing the contract

Yesterday evening I attended a Future Faces event on negotiation skills. We received a brief presentation and then had chance to do a group challenge based on a case study. I found some of the things covered in the presentation really useful so though I would share them.

I’ve got to be honest – I wasn’t sure what to expect from this joint event with CIPS (Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply) – I’m not involved in sales or purchasing, and I’m not in a position to be able to negotiate my salary (two of the examples on the event blurb) but I hoped it might give me some tips and develop some generic skills which I might be able to apply to other contexts. I was therefore very glad that the event started with an overview of how we might be able to use the tips and techniques from the session in other contexts in both our work life (such as negotiating better deals/terms, not just financial negotiation) and our personal life (for all purchases and agreements).

The presentation from Jo McDowall from CIPS on negotiating took us through the phases of negotiation:

  1. Preparation and planning
  2. Opening
  3. Testing
  4. Movement
  5. Closing

She then gave us some tips on how to prepare and plan for negotiation. This included understanding your own requirements (what you need, not what you want), researching the other party to understand potential negotiation points, deciding on your targets (what you would like in an ideal situation, your realistic expectations, and what you would accept as a fallback i.e. minimum), and recognising any assumptions. Again it was highlighted that you need to consider all aspects of the deal, not just price. Using the example of buying a car, you might want to consider your ideal, realistic and fallback options for things like servicing, warrantee, accessories, full tank of fuel, payment terms etc. Jo highlighted the importance of beginning negotiations with your ideal situation, and shared an anecdote with us;

If you don’t feel embarrassed by what you ask for, you are not asking for enough

I can certainly see the logic behind this (after all, sometimes you might get what you want!), though in reality I know I’m far more likely to go in with a realistic negotiation rather than an ideal one as I feel really uncomfortable asking for too much. Definitely something to consider though – what are you willing to sacrifice and what are you not willing to budge on?

We were also taken through the planning process for the stages of negotiation:

  • Opening – The more you ask for, the more you get
  • Testing – Never accept the first offer
  • Movement – Aim to get maximum wish list whilst giving away little
  • Closing – Don’t take no for an answer

The group challenge got us to apply this learning into a real life example. It was an interesting task though sadly there wasn’t much time to discuss it in detail. I was glad we had the opportunity to consider how to apply what we had learnt though, and consider how the ideal, realistic and fallback situations could work in practice.

Do you have any tips for successful negotiation or additional things to bear in mind?

Our Enduring Values (image from Google Books)

The next Twitter chat for the Library Leadership Reading Group will be on 22nd January 2012 at 8pm (UK time). We’ll be discussing Our Enduring Values: Librarianship in the 21st Century by Michael Gorman.

If you’d like to join us, please do – just start tweeting using the #llrg hashtag. To follow the conversation you might want to set up a saved search and use your favourite Twitter client, or you can use a tool like Tweetchat.

If you’re wondering what the Library Leadership Reading Group is all about, please read my earlier blog post, and visit the Google Document which is used to list ideas for things to read (it’s editable so feel free to add yourself to the list of people interested, or add resources to the list).


As I’ve now successfully completed my CILIP Chartership, I won’t be scheduling any more chartership chats as they’ve served their purpose for me. Since submitting my portfolio, I’ve had a few people ask me when the next one will be – it can be whenever you want one! I wanted to ensure people knew how to set one up so that going forward, candidates can continue to schedule these chats if they find them useful.

Twitter icon from Iconfinder

Twitter icon from Iconfinder

Why #chartership chat?

We all learn in different ways, and seek support from different methods. For me, chartership chat on Twitter had the following benefits:

  • Enabled me to share my ideas and get advice from others (including other candidates as well as mentors)
  • Helped motivate me to keep going
  • Gave me regular time points to check in which I used as mini deadlines
  • Gave me dedicated time to both discuss chartership and work on it (I often worked on something in the background whilst chatting)

Think you need something similar to help you with chartership? It’s really easy to organise…

Organising the chat

The following stages are all you need to do to organise a #chartership chat on Twitter:

  1. Set a time and date that you know you’ll be able to make (and preferably at least one other person, it’s usually helpful to propose it on Twitter using the #chartership tag to see if others can make it then)
  2. Publicise the chat – via Twitter, the LIS-CILIP-REG mailing list, and any other methods you think would be useful
  3. Send reminders closer to the date (e.g. the day before or the morning of the day)
  4. Be there at the time, and start tweeting using the #chartership chat. Keep an eye on other tweets using the hashtag, ask questions, answer any if you can, offer support, and help each other work to your deadlines

Optional: you might want to archive the tweets and/or write up the chat and record details on the Chartership Chat page on the CILIP Quals wiki. You may want to host a conversation about a specific topic rather than general chat – if so just make this clear in the publicity.

Hope this information is useful – I found it really useful in keeping me on track and providing me with ideas to help me with my chartership – both the process whilst working on my areas of development, through reflection, and when it came to writing up the portfolio. Also of course it could be another potential piece of evidence!

If you’re working on chartership at the moment you may also be interested in joining in with #chapowrimo (Chartership portfolio writing month) which is encouraging people to do a little bit on chartership each day in November. See #chapowrimo tweets and Emma, Niamh and Katie’s blog posts for more information.

WARNING: long blog post!

I’ve been promising a number of people a blog post on how I archive tweets. I set archives up for lots of reasons – often for an event I am attending to record tweets to refer to at a later date, or sometimes for projects I am involved in to keep a record of conversations. There are a number of different methods of archiving tweets, some of which are outlined below.

NB: This post covers archiving tweets made using a specific hashtag from all users, not archiving personal tweets.

  1. TAGS (Twitter Archiving Google Spreadsheet)
  2. Twubs
  3. Eventifier
  4. Tweet Archivist
  5. TweetDoc

There is also HootSuite (with Pro subscription), but I’m just focusing on the free options in this post.

My preferred tool at the moment is TAGS, but in order to try some other options out, I set up archives each of the five services for the CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Group conference which took place on 10th-11th September 2012. The conference has an official hashtag of #cig12, though we noticed some people are using #cig2012. Unfortunately, during the CIG conference, another event began which was using #cig2012 as their hashtag so we also collected their tweets! With the exception of TAGS (which was set up on 5th Sept) and TweetDoc (which collects tweets after the event), all the archives were set up on 9th September.

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