There’s a few specific reasons that other presenters have shared with me about their NLS6, which I think indicate why presenters rate NLS as a great place to start their public presentation journey. Several past NLS presenters wrote blog posts about their speaker experiences in the build-up to proposals submission for NLS6.
Once a NLS6 presentation submission was accepted, the option of a mentor for the development of the presentation was offered. While Sally & I didn’t take up this option for our presentation, many NLS6 presenters did and they often said that having a mentor was incredibly valuable. Most mentors were geographically distant from the presenter, so email & Twitter & Skype were key methods of communication. Mentors offered ideas, support, encouragement & critique to new presenters.
For presenters who didn’t want to commit to a twenty minute or longer session, the option to be part of the Showcase session was offered. Speakers were given a strict 5 minute time limit. Nine presentations. One hour. The audience voted for their favourite. It was a lightning fast session, but also offered speakers the opportunity to prepare & present on a chosen topic.
As part of the audience for the Showcase, I found it fast, furious and fun. Some of the speakers have said that the prospect of being in front of all the delegates was daunting (it was the only session scheduled for that time slot, ensuring maximum audience numbers), but it was only five minutes and they had all practiced their timelines/slide transitions. I found that the audience was supportive, cheering on speakers and willingly participating where asked to.
I like it as a style, as it’s similar to PechaKucha, and it offers a chance for people to step into the limelight for a short time, as well as experience the build-up of submission, development, presentation.
Audience of peers
Presenting in front of an audience consisting mostly of peers (as well as several keynote speakers & senior library land folks) was far less intimidating for most of us than presenting to an audience filled with potential employers, managers and/or lecturers.
Yes presenting at NLS6 was a scary experience in many ways, but it felt as the audience was there to support you to succeed. They were consciously there to listen & participate in the experience. And they would give constructive feedback and approach you afterwards with questions & ideas. For me, the NLS6 audience were engaged and enthusiastic. As a presenter, it was awesome. It’s what you want an audience to be.
Personally I haven’t always felt that at other conferences. In my experience, people come to a session, they listen, and they leave. I don’t know if that relates to conference ‘fatigue’ or audience disengagement. But it might relate to the next idea.
Self funding audience
For many of the NLS6 participants, they’d self-funded or sought partial funding from a variety of non-work sources. Yes, many attendees were funded and/or supported by their employers, but on the flipside, many weren’t. They’d decided to commit to the experience and pay their own way. And I think that fundamentally changed the levels of audience engagement.
As part of the committee, I had some expenses covered, but I didn’t have any financial support from an employer to attend (this was a combination of me changing jobs close to NLS6, as well as only working part-time, so I attended NLS6 on my non-work days).
I believe that when an attendee makes that financial commitment to attend without the backing of an employer, it changes their commitment to participate.They have made the conscious decision to attend, and they will make sure that they get the best value for money.
I also think that when an employer does support a student or new graduate to attend an event like this, it shows a willingness to support an employee’s personal growth & engagement in the profession, rather than add the pressure to attend purely as a representative of an organisation. It is more about the individual than about the employer. It is supporting the individual to grow, and that does indirectly support an organisation, but it isn’t the driving force for attendance.
I know it is increasingly hard for organisations to justify sending individuals to events without being able to demonstrate the direct return-on-investment (ROI). It is often more of a long-term intangible benefit. And that’s hard for an organisation to justify in an audit.
Nonetheless, for me, I feel it was a key factor in the success and buzz for NLS6.