Okay, I took a break. Sorry to keep you all hanging! After attending two conferences (one as a presenter and one as an association rep) and completing two graduate courses, I’m ready to get back on the blogging track.
At the discussion in April, there were a lot of questions concerning the day of the presentation. As with the previous post, I’m going to break it down question by question.
How many evaluators are there for a typical presentation? It depends on the institution. (Sorry, I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s the absolute truth). Case in point: at one presentation, I was told I’d be presenting to five people. Because of administrative commitments and sudden illness, I ended up presenting to two people. However, after fifteen minutes, one of my audience members had to depart for a meeting. That left me with — count it — one person. At another presentation, I ended up presenting to somewhere between ten and fifteen staff members (librarians and non-librarians). The point: you can never be sure about the size of your audience, so don’t sweat it.
Do I treat my audience like librarians or do I address them as students? Address them as students. It’s awkward, I know (teaching Boolean search techniques to experienced librarians = like preaching to the choir), but the whole point is to give your evaluators an idea of what their students will experience if you’re hired for the position. That said, plan for a presentation that showcases what you’d be doing if you were actually teaching.
Are there usually questions from the “class” during and/or after the presentation? Again, it depends on your audience. During one of my presentations, I had several questions. They ranged from “Why are we using this database?” to “How do I figure out the right keywords?” During another presentation, I was asked no questions.
What are some unexpected/surprising things (unexpected or surprising from the presenter’s point of view) that can affect how evaluators rate the presentations? The number one unexpected/surprising thing that can affect how an evaluator rates your presentation: how you handle technical difficulties. As librarians, we’re expected to be fluent in new and emerging technologies and to employ them with adroitness in the classroom. But what happens when the network goes down or your laptop crashes or — in my case — IT updates the instructor’s station and forgets to reload the Smartboard floating toolbar? You plan ahead and you roll with the punches. Ask yourself this question and you’ll be prepared for anything: How would I present this lesson if the building were suddenly evacuated and I had to teach in the parking lot? Sounds a little extreme, I’m sure, but technical difficulties are a given at any institution, so there’s nothing more impressive than a candidate who has thought of and prepared for EVERYTHING. Did I also mention that over-preparing reduces your odds of freaking out (major presentation killer) when your tech turns against you? Just saying…
Are there any absolute DON’Ts? Everyone knows not to be late, not to show up unprepared, etc. So I will leave you with a single DON’T: Don’t be anybody other than who you are. If you’re a naturally dry presenter, try to be conscious of the tone of your voice and body language; adjust accordingly. Don’t try to become a comedian. In short: just do what you do and do it well.
Does the applicant typically get any kind of feedback re: his/her performance, specifically for the presentation or overall as an applicant? Would this feedback be given immediately after the presentation? I suspect that all applicants get the, “Thanks for coming in. You did very well,” routine regardless of performance. The fact of the matter is that interviewers are simply NOT invested in providing interviewees with feedback, so don’t expect or ask for it. The time for feedback is BEFORE the interview. If you’re concerned with your presentation, practice. Round up a few current colleagues, classmates, or fellow library school alumni and have THEM evaluate your performance prior to your interview. (Can’t get everyone in one place? Try Skype or Google Hangouts with Extras.) You’ll get a handle on your strengths, weaknesses, and, based on the comments and suggestions you receive, you’ll learn how to gauge the quality of your performance on your own.
How about you? What are your day-of presentation tips or concerns?