In January or February when I saw the call for submissions for the IFLA Satellite Meeting to be held in Limerick, the themes of the Meeting stood out as matching up very well with the work that I was doing with Knowledge Management at Trόcaire. As I hadn’t presented at a conference before, and it was early days with the work I was doing, I immediately ruled out submitting a standard paper/presentation of 15mins. I felt that a brief highlight focusing on just one element of my work would be best.
Submissions were invited for posters and Pecha Kucha presentations, so these were the two formats that I decided between. Both require a clear visual representation of work, and I felt that Yammer, the internal social network that I was involved in promoting, would provide plenty of images. After some deliberation, and some encouragement, I decided to take the plunge and go for the Pecha Kucha – talking for about six minutes on a topic – over the more unassuming and silent escape of a poster. Although perfectly comfortable talking to groups in an educational setting with plenty of interaction and games or contingency plans – public speaking gives me the heebie-jeebies! There are no doubts in my mind as to why it is the number one fear in the world. In my head when reading through a script I sound great, walking around the room acting it out I give it loads of attitude, but standing in front of unknown faces with varying degrees of interest etched on their faces has the ability to dry out my mouth, raise my temperature, and confuse my brain. However, I do try to challenge myself to give presentations when I can, as everybody says that it gets easier with experience.
I knew basically what I wanted to talk about, namely, how we used an internal social network at Trόcaire to improve Knowledge Management. As the time went by between my abstract being accepted and when I needed to submit my slides, I was constantly working on new aspects of the Knowledge Management project and the interviews and work I was carrying out with staff across the organisation were impacting on its development. I frequently updated my notes for the presentation, but it was important to continually refer back to my abstract and not add details that were outside of that initial outline.
When the date approached for submitting the final slides, I had to work out how to make a coherent set of 20 slides that would illustrate my points. Each of these slides are only shown for 20 seconds each in a Pecha Kucha, the idea being that this type of presentation drives a concise overview of a piece of work. Putting these slides together was far harder than I had originally imagined it would be. When I had first submitted my proposal, I had several definite ideas for slides, demonstrating our need for Knowledge Management and good use of Yammer and Information Literacy. However, when it came to producing 20 separate images that communicated my message, I found I quickly ran out of inspiration. With the help of Flikr Creative Commons I did eventually complete the slides, and felt I had chosen images that matched each stage of the rough “script” I was working with.
On the day that I was presenting my Pecha Kucha I felt that I was quite well prepared, I didn’t feel too nervous in the couple of hours leading up to it, and luckily we had a lively keynote from Dr Michael Stephens first thing which kept me happily distracted. I even got quite excited during this talk as many of the key themes emerging about play and learning were ideas I was planning to cover in my presentation. I knew I had a slide featuring a word cloud of all these key words included in my deck, and I imagined that during my presentation I could make a quip about how I had just quickly added this one in since the morning’s keynote.
The whole purpose of the Pecha Kucha format is to encourage a speedy run through of a development, originally created for technical experts so that they would not get carried away with incomprehensible details. Therefore, the 20 slides are only shown for 20 seconds each. During my presentation, I felt that maybe I had set the slide transitions to go quicker than that – I had no sooner started to address a point, when that slide would dissolve and be replaced with the next. Although my recall of what I actually said during those 6 minutes and 40 seconds is not perfect, I’m pretty sure I did manage to make my main points and offer an overview of my experience with Yammer and Knowledge Management. However, the more nuanced elements, additional details or light-hearted comments got side-lined as I stood there and kept up with the automatic transition of my slides.
After my Pecha Kucha a couple of people approached me to ask questions about my work on Knowledge Management at Trócaire, and a few people even complimented my presentation! Despite the performance not being seamless, it felt good to have gone through the experience and understand the work involved in preparing and delivering this style of presentation. The main points were communicated and I had created interest in my subject leading to further conversations with my fellow delegates. I had taken my first step into presenting at professional conferences, and I lived to tell the tale.