The conference Brag Deck is one of my favorite community engagement secret weapons. It’s a slide deck with pictures of things libraries want to show off. It runs on repeat somewhere during the conference, preferably someplace high-profile like over lunch or during a meeting. People can watch it, see what other libraries are doing, get ideas. I make a little web page that goes along with it so it’s available online all year. If you can make slides, operate email, and download images, you can do this. Here’s an example from last year (sorry no ALT text version available yet)
People make slides in a number of different ways, so I won’t get too into the technical weeds but here are a few tips.
– Don’t start too early. Ask people on your library mailing list (or other communication method) for a few images and text a few weeks out. “What’s something you’re proud of? Show it off here!”
– Remind people a few times in a non-nagging way. The last email can say “There’s still time!” a few days before the conference. You’ll be surprised how many last minute entries you’ll get. I got two on the day before the conference. The goal is to have a lot of participation.
– Email everyone who sends in images saying thank you and congratulating them on their achievement. We spend so much time recognizing others that we don’t always recognize ourselves. Your positive response helps.
– I do 1-2 slides per library, so that both big and small libraries get a chance to shine. If there are a few good images of one event I try to do a multi-image slide. Don’t get too fancy.
– Include the library’s name and location and a small bit of text about what is on each slide, so people can follow up with a library if they want to know more.
That’s it. Finish it up, bring it to the conference, set it somewhere on repeat. Especially by the end of a conference, people can be tired and want to just chill somewhere. Having something professionally applicable but also passive and relaxing is a great addition to any library conference.
I went to ALA for the first time in several years last week. I don’t think I’ve been to ALA since the Think Tank has been in existence. It was a great setup. Conference was in Boston. I was giving a pre-conference. Part of my deal was that I’d get registration for the conference, and one night in a fancy hotel (and some $). It worked out great. Usually, I admit, I dislike workshops. I don’t like to be in them and I barely know how to give them. However, my feelings on this are not normative, so I tried to bring my education and my experience to an afternoon workshop for about twenty people and have some useful exercises and activities as well as some good discussion. I think it went well. My main self-critique was that I had made sure I had three hours of “stuff” for a three hour workshop and maybe didn’t leave enough time for people to just talk to each other. More blank spaces next time. You can read through my slides as well as see the handouts and exercises (and the image credits) at this URL: https://www.librarian.net/talks/llama16/.
One of the other great things about the Rural Libraries Conference is that, in addition to giving a keynote presentation, I was also given a workshop slot to … basically do whatever I wanted. One of the things that I think is frequently missing from conference planning is some way to help people with follow-through on the ideas they get or the things they want to try or even keeping in touch with the people they meet. Conferences are often a lot of fast-paced learning and mingling and fun and weird food and odd schedules and then people come home and sleep it off and it all seems like a distant dream when they get back to work. I’m sure this is triply true if you’re at a conference someplace wacky like The Grand Hotel.
So I did a very short presentation called Maintaining Momentum and talked about some ways to keep the energy up. You can read the (very short) slide deck [pdf, link fixed!] to get an idea of what it was like. I did something I basically never do which was get people split up into pairs and give them a buddy to check in with in two weeks, with little handouts to swap email and ideas. We went around the room and talked about things we’d seen that we liked and might want to implement (in the library and just in life generally). I also got an email list of everyone’s contact info (note for future talks: tell people to print legibly) and learned to use MailChimp myself to send a one-time-only “Hey get in touch with your buddy” reminder which was part of what I’d vowed to learn.
It was a great presentation, people were really into it and seemed to enjoy having space for a bit of a meta-discussion about the conference while at the conference. I’m really happy I went outside my usual comfort zone to put it together, very appreciative of the great folks who showed up and gratified that people didn’t talk all the way through this one (except when they were supposed to).