I sometimes wonder if my librarian destiny wasn't largely due to the fact that I am softly spoken. When I gave presentations at school and university, I was always told to 'speak up a bit', with calls of 'we can't hear you at the back'. These early experiences of presenting haunt me to this day. When I chose the librarian career path, it was with a very naive view that speaking in front of groups of people wouldn't be a large part of my work, in fact probably wouldn't feature at all. I soon learnt how wrong I was!
My first major presentation was just after I qualified. I was asked by ARLIS to talk at their students and trainees day about my career so far. Just a simple 20 minute talk. Rather than freaking out, I asked my line manager if I could attend a presentation course at CILIP. This is still the most rewarding training I have ever received. In fact, I felt quite emotional by the end of the day, as I had broken down some barriers. My 20 minute ARLIS presentation went okay. My nerves were still there but I got a real buzz from the experience.
Since then, I've done many student inductions, and presented with colleagues at the University's annual Learning and Teaching Symposium. However, I still feel conscious about my quiet voice. Nowadays, the pressure feels somehow greater because of my chosen career. The voice in my head is saying 'this is what people expect of librarians - prove them wrong!'.
When I saw an internal course (run by Steve Creffield: http://www.evolve-now.co.uk/) advertised on voice projection, I was keen to sign up. It took place this afternoon (postponed from December). It was a very interactive course, involving some humming and oohing. We were encouraged to block our inner critical voice and relax. By repeating an introduction to a presentation (e.g. Good afternoon, my name is Emma. Today, I'm going to show you how to use library resources) with a fellow attendee, we practised different techniques e.g. vocal range, gestures, pauses, visualisation. Putting this all together at the end, we presented our lines to the whole group, who then gave feedback. Some attendees sat at the back of the room. After my first go, those at the back said they could hear me despite my soft voice but any background noise could easily drown me out. So I took a deep breath and really pushed the words out, which worked well. However, I doubt whether I could sustain that throughout a presentation, although I will give it a go next time the opportunity arises.
One good tip from the course which I'd like to share with readers is to visit http://www.ted.com/ and pick a presentation that inspires you. Watch it once, then a second time with the volume muted. Watch the presenter's body language, pick up on what they do well and try to incorporate some of those gestures into your next presentation.