On speaking: a few current notes

Here’s a calendar of my speaking engagements for the next 24 months.

Now that you’ve plowed through that, here are some notes about the situation.

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Would I be willing to speak? Probably

During my long and peculiar career, I’ve spoken–almost always to library groups, almost always invited–something over 100 times. With three exceptions, I’ve always enjoyed it (maybe 2.5 exceptions), both the speaking and the conference I was speaking at. That’s included something like 40 keynotes over the years.

Ideally, this post should really appear on April 26, 2013, because that will be two years to the day since the last invited speech (or any speech!) I’ve done, one of three at the 2013 OLA/WLA Joint Conference. (Which was most definitely enjoyable, and I’d like to think most of the people at the sessions found them worthwhile.) Or, maybe, on January 31, since that would have been six years since the previous invited library conference speech involving expenses and honorarium. (There were two others in between, but one was during an ALA Annual while I was still regularly attending ALA and the other was, to be honest, somewhat shoehorned into a program because of a book I’d just published.)

Which is to say that I haven’t been doing much speaking lately. That’s hardly surprising. It’s been a long time since I had a full-time job in the library field; my presence in the formal periodical literature has declined almost completely; I’m not a great PowerPoint/Prezi/Keynote presenter; and I’m getting on in years. (“I’m old” is another way to put it, but I’m only intermittently ready to claim that one so far.)

I’m writing this now rather than a few days from now, or never, because of a recent tweetversation (sorry) relating to the most populous state in which I’ve never spoken (I used to keep track of these things, and I’ve actually spoken in something over half the states, along with two Canadian provinces and two Australian states)–namely New Jersey, the 11th largest state by population, with 8.9 million people. Indeed, you have to drop down to #28, Oklahoma with 3.9 million, before you get to the next most populous state I’ve never spoken in. (After that, the list of states spared my speaking gets thick–#30, Iowa, #31, Mississippi, #32, Arkansas, #33, Utah…)

Anyway: the suggestion was made that the lack of a New Jersey speech could be rectified–and that resulted in this post.

On one hand, there’s the heading above. Would I be willing to speak? Probably–given the right circumstances and arrangements. You can read more about that here (I suppose I should update that 18-month-old page one of these years). I would certainly add “open access” and specifically “the state of gold OA” to the list of plausible topics; indeed, it may be the most plausible, given the work I’m doing and the forthcoming Library Technology Reports. But there are other possibilities.

On the other hand…

There are a lot of other, younger, more involved library folks out there

Many of whom are probably better speakers/presenters, some (maybe many) of whom are smarter, many of whom are more qualified to speak on almost any topic you can name.

Let’s face it: given travel costs these days and my unwillingness to camp out, share a room, sleep in a hostel, or fly in and out in a great hurry, it would be hard to justify meeting my terms unless several speeches and/or a keynote is involved. (Given the increased hassles of travel these days, and the fact that it’s a mild hassle to get from here to the nearest big airport, I really couldn’t justify going for a quick in-and-out trip.)

I suspect almost any conference would be much better off with younger, more involved keynote speakers–people better able to inspire attendees with contemporary views and issues.

Perhaps a better writer than presenter

I believe I’ve been a pretty decent speaker over the years (those years spent in the National Forensic League weren’t entirely wasted, although my Rhetoric degree from Berkeley had nothing whatsoever to do with public speaking–you couldn’t take speaking courses for credit in the major), but I suspect I’m nowhere near as good now as I was, say, in 1992-2003, the peak decade for speaking. For that matter, it was easier to get away without doing “decks” back then, and I’m really not a PPTer. (I’ve done them. I suspect some of the OLA/WLA attendees weren’t happy with them.)

I still write a lot, even if much of it’s self-published these days (not all!). It’s not as though my views and findings aren’t being heard. Speaking isn’t the same thing, but the profession isn’t missing anything major by my not speaking.


Willing, probably–but you may be better off elsewhere

Would I be willing to speak if the arrangements, situation, expenses, etc. made sense? Yes.

Am I hoping to see invitations? That’s complicated.

Do I believe associations should be inviting me? Not really.

Will I be disappointed if I never do another library speech? Probably not.

Is asking and answering your own questions an annoying habit? Certainly, but a typical one.


A few words about those 2.5 cases

So what was wrong with three (or 2.5) speaking situations, such that I didn’t enjoy them?

  • The most blatant case was one where I’d agreed to do a same-day fly-in, speak at lunch, fly-out (a mistake to start with), and only required that I have a podium for my speaking notes. There was no podium or anything that could substitute, I was frazzled from the flight, and I’m sure I did a lousy job.
  • In another case, the policies of the inviting organization were such that it was extremely difficult for the inviting group to meet my expense requirements, I could only attend other sessions on the same day as my talk (as it happened, I didn’t do that), travel got messy (and when I got there, exhausted, the welcoming dinner turned into a multihour hassle that left me even more exhausted), and the whole thing just left a bad taste in my mouth. It’s the one association I probably wouldn’t accept a return invitation from. Fortunately, that’s almost certainly never going to happen anyway.
  • The half case: The conference setting was wonderful, the people were lovely, some of the other sessions were interesting–but (a) I was a bad fit for the conference, (b) I came down with food poisoning on the day I was speaking, so that I felt like I was going to die while I was trying to speak, (c) I was speaking facing klieg lights for videotaping, so I couldn’t really see the people I was speaking to, (d) I very nearly got into a fight with another speaker during a group discussion. The organizer assured me that I did fine. But they also sent me a videotape: Nope, I did not do fine. It was a mess.

I have never ever been to a state or association library conference I did not enjoy–with one partial exception because my wife was along (which rarely happens) and was seriously ill, so that I could barely focus on the conference people. That wasn’t their fault.

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