I thought it would be useful to share my experiences as a speaker at the New Professionals Conference last week. The talks were by new professionals, all of whom were first time speakers, and I was lucky enough to be one of them.

I was pleased that my proposal had been accepted (apparently there had been 28 proposals and 10 were chosen to speak), but I was incredibly nervous about talking at the conference. I was even more nervous when I found out the week before the event that there were 90 delegates; I had only expected it to be a small event (as had the organisers who were pleasantly surprised by how many delegates they had!). Some of the organising committee met us the evening before for dinner, and I soon realised that many of the speakers were as apprehensive as I was – we were all in it together.

The venue was London Metropolitan University, and those of us who had arrived the day before were escorted from the hotel to the event (which was a relief – navigating the tube isn’t so tricky when there’s a group of you!). The speakers had the opportunity to set up before the delegates arrived and it was good to have chance to ensure our presentations displayed as planned as well as get a feel for the room and the microphones. A couple of people’s presentations didn’t display as expected despite saving in the correct format, so I linked my laptop to the projector and some of us used that instead – I knew it was a good idea to bring my proper laptop!

There were three sections of three presentations centred around a theme, as well as the first speaker, Katie Hill, who had her own special section on the consumer generation at the beginning of the day. My presentation wasn’t until the afternoon in the section around marketing ourselves; there were also sections on meeting the challenges and career profiles.

The presentations were as follows:

The New Generation:
“The Consumer Generation and How it is Changing the Library and Information Profession”: Katie Hill, Serials and E-resources Assistant, University of York

Meeting the Challenges:
“Why Are We Still Defined by Our Building?”: Ned Potter, Digitisation Coordinator, University of Leeds
“Attracting Young People into the Profession”: Sarah Newbutt, Assistant Librarian, The Grammar School at Leeds
“Gaining Skills in the Social Aspects of Libraries”: Lydia Mayor, Knowledge Advisor: Research and Training Support, Eversheds
Followed by panel discussion chaired by Christopher Rhodes, New Professionals Co-ordinator, Career Development Group

Marketing Ourselves:
“Unleashing the Potential: New Professionals in the Workplace”: Emma Illingworth & Sarah Ison, Assistant Information Advisers, University of Brighton
“Beyond the Counter: What Skills Can New Professionals Offer in the Public Library Sector”: Kath Aitken, Reader Development and Stock Management Librarian, Derbyshire County Council
“Market Yourself Using Online Tools”: Joanne Alcock, Resources Librarian, University of Wolverhampton
Followed by panel discussion chaired by Dave Percival, Vice-Chair, Diversity Group

Career Profiles:
“From Old School to New Profession”: Hazel James, Librarian, Dame Alice Owens Secondary School, Hertfordshire.
“New Technologies, New Professionals”: Nicolás Robinson, Graduate Trainee, EC3: Science and Scientific Communication Evaluation, University of Granada, Spain.
“Wanted: New Professionals for Public Library Service”: Anne Sherman, Literature & Reading Development Officer, Cheshire East Council
Followed by panel discussion chaired by Sylvia James,Treasurer & Board Liaison to the First Five Years Council of the Special Libraries Association

Laura, one of the delegates, has written a fantastic summary of each of the talks over on her blog (part 1, part 2, part 3). The summaries cover a lot more than I can remember – I made some notes but missed some, especially those in my own section as I was sat in the panel with my back to the screen! There are also some write ups on the day from Kathy Ennis (CILIP) and Lizzie Russell (Sue Hill Recruitment).

It was a fantastic event (I may be biased but I really enjoyed the other talks!), and it was great to see so many new professionals passionate and enthusiastic about the library profession. I really liked the structure of the event; the panel discussions with involvement from the audience were really interesting. There was plenty of opportunity for networking too, with breaks throughout the day and a long enough lunch to eat as well as network. As well as new professionals, some delegates had been in the profession for longer, and representatives from CILIP and Sue Hill Recruitment were also there. There seemed to be quite a mix of sectors from delegates and speakers; academic, public, school and corporate librarians.

I actually really enjoyed presenting for the conference, it was a little overwhelming at first but after a minute or so I realised it really wasn’t that scary. There is quite a lot of interest in online networking at the moment and I had a number of people speak to me after the presentation, as well as contact me privately since the day. It’s great to think that I may have inspired someone to start using these tools and makes all the effort and nerves worthwhile. I’ve been asked to speak at the CILIP Graduate Day in September and hope to be able to share my experiences there too.

Overall, I’m really glad I chose to take Meredith Farkas’ advice to try new things, and at least now I’ve lost my speaker’s virginity maybe next time it won’t be so scary! 🙂

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