News & Opinion

Fast Five: My Experience as a Spark Talks Presenter

by on April 10, 2014

Hosted by Toby Greenwalt, Portia Latalladi, and Kevin King, PLA 2014’s Spark Talks program was described as “fast-moving sessions [that] feature five-minute presentations on the latest and greatest ideas from your public library colleagues. Come be surprised, inspired, and energized!” My colleague Gwyn and my proposal, “You’re On Air! Using Google Hangouts On Air to Livestream Library Programs” was accepted for the Thursday, March 13th session.

Fast forward to presentation day: The Spark Talks session was so packed that seating quickly ran out. Toby, Portia, and Kevin did an amazing job introducing the session and the presenters, and setting the tone: –  a forum for amazing ideas, witty comments, and general enthusiasm. The first presenters went up and gave their pitches. The facilitators held true to the five-minute timetables and a horn was blasted if a presenter went one second over. Our was to show how it is possible to livestream library programs, story times, and book discussions to patrons via the computer or smartphone for free.

Disclaimer: Before Spark Talks, I had never done a five-minute presentation before. Sure, I had presented many times on a range of topics, yet all of these speeches had ranged from 25 minutes to 1.5 hours. As the facilitators explained, doing a five-minute pitch was good practice for giving a proposal to a committee, board, or boss.   

Five minutes is a short amount of time to pack in a lot of information, so you really have to get the point across while including the necessary details. Yet, you don’t want to include too many details because people can (and do) get bored easily. So it’s an interesting line to walk: be informative, convincing, and captivating- and do it in 300 seconds.

Another confession: Maybe it is because I have made so many that the shine has completely worn off, but Gwyn and I definitely did not want to create a PowerPoint that included a lot of graphs and diagrams (plus, we didn’t have any graphs or diagrams). Thanks to public domain photos and a lot of embarrassing screen shots of our colleagues (thanks, colleagues!) and ourselves from countless recorded Google Hangout Sessions, we created a presentation that told our story with literally no text- all pictures.

Before we knew it, it was our turn to take the stage. I’m not going to lie: my heart was racing and my palms were sweaty. I even had a fleeting thought of running out of the room, but I decided against it once I realized I would have to do hurdles over the crowd. And so, as our presentation was aptly titled, we “went live.”

And it was great! As soon as we started talking, all of the nerves escaped and we had so much fun sharing our ideas and feeling the appreciation from our peers. With time to spare, Toby, Portia, and Kevin high-fived us as we walked off stage. The best part was that we could sit back and be amazed by all of the incredible ideas that our fellow public librarians had. The part of the Spark Talks description that mentioned becoming “energized” was spot on- I was so grateful to both share and hear so many fantastic proposals for 21st Century librarianship.

I learned a lot from this experiences: that short and sweet can be just as effective, if not more, than a long presentation; PowerPoint Presentations can be entertaining with no text; being scared is perfectly fine because it gives you adrenaline, and having a fantastic colleague to share the ride with you makes all difference.


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