UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

You Talk At Conferences? That Must Be Scary!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 24 Nov 2008

My recent talk on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” at the Bridging Worlds 2008 conference held in Singapore on 16-17th October (which was possibly the first Library 2.0 conference in Asia) brought back memories of the first time I spoke at a conference – the INET 94/JENC5 conference held in June 1994 in Prague in which I presented a paper entitled “Becoming an information provider on the WWW“.

I can recall how nervous I felt when I submitted my first paper to an international conference and wondered how I would cope with having to go onto a big stage (I later discovered that the auditorium held 1,000 people). While I was waiting to hear if the paper had been accepted I went on holiday to Victoria Falls. And wile I was there I decided to take a trip white-water rafting. After all, I convinced myself, if I can do this, I can do anything, including giving a paper at an international conference. So I did the trip – and even afterwards booked to go bunjee-jumping off the Victoria Falls Bridge (I was told it was the world’s highest commercial bunjee jump). However the jump were cancelled on the day due to bad weather, so I had to console myself with the fact that I had been white-water rafting down the mighty Zambesi. I went on to present my paper at the conference, and have subsequently spoken at international conferences held in France, Portugal, Hungary, USA, Canada, Japan, Taiwan and, most recently, Singapore. And all thanks to overcoming my nerves by going white-water rafting! (Although knowing bit about the Web probably helped too :-).

These thoughts came back to me after I’d given my talk at the Bridging Worlds conference. As I mentioned the talk was entitled “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” and in order to demonstrate an approach I take in balancing risks and benefits I described how the slides for the talk were available online with a Creative Commons licence. I also explained that I was happy for my talk to be recorded or broadcast or for the talk to be blogged live – and described that I was using a Flip video camera to record my talk, and would subsequently make this available on Google Video. I explained the reasons I was doing this. I was aware of possible risks – I might make mistakes in my talk which would be preserved for other to see, for example. However I also explained the benefits of doing this – I was speaking at the conference as I had a message I wanted to communicate, and I wanted to maximise the impact of the message and the audience – and I felt that this could be helped by the ‘amplification’ of my talk using a variety of networked technologies.

And it seems that this explanation was appreciated, with Ivan Chew (ramblinglib on Twitter) and a fellow speaker at the conference commenting:

Brilliant: your explanation of how you weighed the risks Vs benefits of allowing others to vid/ blog/ record your talk

Ivan went on to further summarise my talk in a subseqent blog post.

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that many speakers do take risks when they give presentations – and that this comes with the territory. And participating in amplified conferences can then be seen as a natural extension of the risk-taking and not being fashionable or being rude.

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