Notes from the MAHSLIN Talks

On Friday, September 9, and Monday, September 12, I presented information about weblogs and feeds to MAHSLIN, a group of medical and science librarians in Massachusetts. The outines for my talks are linked from the dates. My notes about how the talks went, what I forgot to say, etc., follow.

When I’m presenting, I really enjoy it when the audience is interactive. Both MAHSLIN audiences drove my presentations with their questions. We jumped all over the outline, which is fine by me, and jumped off the outline quite a bit. (I’m starting to wonder if maybe I should rearrange what I talk about because feed questions always happen right at the beginning.) I think interactive presenting works much better because the audience gets what they want out of the talk, they let me know why they’re there. I still go over bits of the presentation they didn’t ask about–just in case there’s something there someone might find useful. It takes some audiences a little while to realize that it’s ok with me if they speak up, ask questions, interrupt when they don’t understand, interject when they have something to add, knit.

Right off the bat on Friday, someone asked why libraries should use weblogs when someone could post their opinion on them. I thought “What better way could there be to start my talk?” I, of course, spent my presentation explaining why libraries should use weblogs. I used the question again on Monday to launch my talk.

I usually display The World as a Blog during breaks. I forgot to explain it on Monday. The site works off of geographical data associated with certain feeds in order to indicate on the map where the post is coming from. The light and dark areas show where night and day are. On Friday, a weblog I was going to highlight popped up on the map. The tool works better on my Mac than it did on the PC I used Friday.

I also forgot to tell a joke I came up with. I was so excited to have something other people might find funny and I forgot to say it. After the talk, when I realized I forgot the joke, I told it to a few people gathered around the podium and they laughed.

"I’m sure glad the class is today instead of next Monday. Next Monday is Talk Like a Pirate Day. You’d have to listen to me say things like <in a pirate voice>, ‘Here’s another weblog, ye mateys! Aaarrrrrrrrgh.’ for 3 1/2 hours."

On Friday, I ended up speaking for 90 minutes. I can usually get through my talk in about forty-five minutes to an hour. The additional time reflects a lot of questions. Garrett Eastman began by thanking me for an “extensive” introduction and said something like, “I’m tempted to say ‘What she said’ and go sit down.” I’m glad he didn’t because I think the audience got some great things out of his talk about blogging in scientific environments. Besides, it took him 30 minutes to say what I said in 90. I hope he’ll post his presentation. It’s very similar to one he gave before.

My vocal chords hurt after Monday’s class. I think I spoke almost constantly for about 2 1/2 hours.

It was great to be able to show some of the tools I use on my own desktop because I could hook my laptop up to the projectors. While showing the difference between how the Manila aggregator and NetNewsWire display feeds on Monday, I spotted a gapingvoid comic to use as an example. The Manila aggregator doesn’t show the images in the gapingvoid feed, but NetNewsWire does. I warned people that gapingvoid isn’t always work safe and there’s a good chance this particular cartoon wouldn’t be as I switched from one application to the other. Sure enough, it wasn’t. The class got my point about how some aggregators don’t handle images in a way they probably won’t forget. We laughed about it. Next time, maybe I’ll try the Dowbrigade. It’s much racier.

The point I forgot to make about gapingvoid is how it’s a fabulous source of information about how people and companies are using blogs for marketing.

A knitter questioned me about some of the references to knitting blogs I made. She didn’t realize there’s such a community of knitters online. We ended up talking about knitting a bit. I mentioned knitting in public the other week and having two guys approach me to confess that they knit. I told her about a knitalong I was involved in last summer (hence the image of knitting on this blog) and how we tried a group blog for that effort. The group part failed, but I still sometimes post to that blog.

Talking about knitting made me realize I forgot to tell people I usually don’t mind if people knit during my presentations. Sometimes, I wish I could. If you’re attending any of my talks, bring your knitting. If it’s a problem for other audience members, tell them I gave you permission to do so. ha ha ha (If it gets to be a major disruption/distraction, we’ll work something out. Don’t worry.)

I need to learn how to work better with a podium. Because I was in an auditorium that seats about 100 people, on a stage, and miked through the podium, I felt like I couldn’t really move away from it. How boring! The podium seemed huge to me. I consider myself to be short (but I don’t mind being short). I could not see the first two rows of people in front of the podium because of the height of a computer screen on the podium. On Monday, I stood at a raised desk with a monitor on it. While the program organizer was introducing me, I realized no one could see me because of the monitor. It brought an image to my mind similar to the contradance band setups where the piano’s back faces the dancers and we can’t see the pianist. The projector cable was too short for me to move my laptop to the other side of the monitor, so some people put the monitor on the floor for me. I’m sure some class members wanted it back up once they saw me … (ha ha ha) I wonder if I need to start carrying around a short step stool along with all the other things I bring to presentations (projector cables, ethernet cable, kitchen timer, fuzzy blue slippers, a few good articles about blogging, an iPod, etc.)

I felt really bad about the course on Monday because I was late. I completely underestimated the amount of time I needed to get to Worcester. I took me three times longer than normal to get to the interstate. When I got to campus, I realized the directions I was following didn’t adequately identify the building the library is in–mostly because construction barriers blocked the view of the building’s entrance. I wandered around campus for a few minutes before finding someone else looking for the library who had just asked for directions. A few people still hadn’t made it to class when I got there, so we waited a little while longer before starting.

About halfway through my talk, my hair got tangled up with a button on my shirt. I wasn’t sure what to do about it because I couldn’t easily untangle it, but when I moved my head in certain ways, my hair would pull rather painfully. I have a hard time holding my head still when I talk. I explained to the class why I kept fidgeting with my hair and told them jokingly on their (nonexistent) evaluation forms they could complain that not only was I late, but I played with my hair during the entire talk. I was very lucky that that was the worst thing to happen to me during both presentations. I managed to untangle it during the break.

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