If you aren’t reading ALA Learning, you should be! It’s the official blog of The Learning Round Table of ALA, and it’s a great resource for continuing education opportunities and generally making yourself a better librarian.
Recently my Emerging Leaders mentor, Peter Bromberg, penned a great post on public speaking: Finding Your Voice(s). If you’ve ever struggled with figuring out how to best present yourself to a crowd, it’s time for you to Ctrl-T a tab for this post and read it–NOW. In it, Peter advocates getting to know your natural speaking voice, as well as practicing deviating from it. Favorite line:
Learning to speak in a variety of voices is like learning to act outside of your natural personality style: All of us can do it – and to be effective there are times when all of us have to do it– but it takes conscious effort and energy.
I’m a hopeless public speaker. If comfort is judged on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being a La-Z-boy recliner molded by years of tv-watching and 1 being a bed of nails, I’m at about a comfort level 2 with speaking to large groups. The discrepency between what I hope to sound like, and what actually ends up pouring out of my mouth is quite great. I’m at my most natural on paper. I know my natural written “voice” backwards and forwards, and can modify it as needed. My speaking voice, however, is still erratic. I want to sound cool and collected, but I end up in a puddle of nervous chatter. I want to sound authoritative and in control, but sometimes I just end up sounding shrill.
My written voice has had years of practice, growing from the short entries in my Lisa Frank notebook to the pretentious college English Lit papers to this blog. My spoken voice has not received nearly that degree of practice. Why? Because writing was always easier, and I was never really challenged to present.
But today I issue a challenge to myself, and to all other librarians who feel more comfortable on paper that they do in person: Practice a presentation, and don’t write it down first.