InfoPro Home > Professional Development > Monthly Column
Taking Public Speaking to the Next Level
Librarian Relations Consultant
We’ve all heard this before – statistics
show that many people fear public speaking more than death. Comedian
Jerry Seinfeld once joked that if you're attending a funeral, you'd
rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.
Yet we all know how crucial
communication skills are in our everyday lives. And I’m certain we
all have our favorite public speakers, those people who keep us
engaged and entertained, who have a boundless energy level, and for
whom public speaking seems effortless.
How, I wondered, could I become one of
those people? And even more importantly, how can I use this skill to
communicate the value of librarians and librarianship in this
“eveything’s on the internet” mindset? I’ve been through those
two-day sessions that offer “Top 10 Tips to Becoming a Better
Speaker”, but I needed more reinforcement and a plan if I was truly
committed to succeeding.
I’ve had the good fortune to participate in Toastmasters for
over a year now. If you are serious about enhancing your skills,
this experience is unsurpassed in its ability to offer a true
learning environment. And you participate to the extent that is
comfortable for you. Of course, the more you extend yourself, the
more you'll achieve.
A series of 10
speaking assignments build a basic foundation in good public
speaking. Each assignment helps to develop a unique skill – audience
focus, eye contact, timing, etc. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t
easy. But it is focused and organized -- two words that speak
to most librarians. Completion of this initial group of assignments
offers the opportunity to develop advanced speaking skills that are
geared to areas of specific interest.
Most groups offer guests an opportunity to attend a meeting and
learn more about Toastmasters International . Check their Web site
for a club in your area:
So, now that I’ve started to gain some insights and skills into
public speaking, I’d like to explore my options for presenting my
ideas to an audience outside my comfort level and my specific
profession. I’m always pleased to be able to present a topic to my
colleagues and peers at AALL and other local organizations within
law librarianship, but how can I expand my horizons?
Organizations are always looking for good speakers. As librarians,
we have an amazing network of colleagues available to us. Put this
skill to use by:
As librarians we have access to so much
knowledge, let’s make more of an effort to share what we know.
Attorneys, paralegals, clients, students, judges, CEOs, (whatever
name you give to your patrons) still need our expertise and our
guidance and we must possess and demonstrate the communication
skills necessary to reach them.
A natural outgrowth of speaking engagements is professional
writing. Once you’ve presented the information to your audience, the
next step can be submitting your ideas for publication. At the very
least, you can provide a synopsis of your presentation for the
organization’s newsletter. This virtually always assures that you’ll
be recognized for your contribution. Again, publications are always
looking for well-written, timely, insightful articles. If
Spectrum and Law Library Journal seem too daunting,
submit your ideas to the local bar publication or LLRX. Offer to
write a column on your topic of choice.
How, you say, will I find the time for public speaking and
publication? I wish I had an easy answer. I understand that
priorities shift daily in our lives and in our jobs. The best way
for me to accomplish these goals is to include them throughout the
Here are two action items you can accomplish this year:
As part of your
professional development plan for this year (you do have one,
right?), create a five (or 10 or 15 – your choice) minute
presentation to the library staff/colleagues (you fill in the
blank) on a new resource you recently learned about. Perhaps
you’ve encountered a reference title that meets a unique need
within a practice area.
In recent months there have been
numerous news accounts discussing the future of librarianship. I’ve
read stories about many of the issues, running the gamut from not
enough qualified librarians to the idea that there’s no need for
librarians at all. One CNN headline, in particular, gave me pause:
“Are librarians going the way of the dinosaur”? This was their way
of introducing Google’s digitization project. And whom did they
interview - a librarian? No, the guest was a technology analyst who
still uses a card catalog to do his research.
As librarians, we still have a long way to go in terms of
effectively communicating the value of our skills and our
profession. Yes, we are getting better, but we need to continue to
explore avenues by which to convey the return on investment that we
provide to our communities.
As for me, well, it’s a process for me, too. I’m at about Step 2,
and now I don’t mind if I’m asked to perform the eulogy.
Back to Top >>