A lot of aspiring library speakers come up to me in the street and say, "AL, what’s the secret of a great library presentation? I want to be famous like you and some of the other insufferable librarians out there. How do you do it?"
It’s easy, of course. There are just a few things you need to remember to be a big hit as a library speaker.
1) Show a lot of pretty pictures. The pictures don’t need to have any relationship with the subject under discussion. In fact, the less relation they have to whatever you’re babbling about, the better. That way, anyone in the audience who isn’t mentally numbed by your vapid presentation will be busy trying to work out the relationship for themselves. Given that your presentation will almost assuredly require no thought to follow, this will give the intelligent people in the crowd something to occupy themselves. The rest of the crowd will be busily tweeting your presentation for the lucky many who don’t have to sit through it in person.
2) Show a lot of cutesy pictures, too. You need to intersperse your clear skies and grandiose mountains with some babies dressed up as animals. Cartoons often work, especially if they have cute kitties in them. These are librarians in the audience, after all. And when you show the cutesy pictures, don’t say anything. Just let them speak for themselves. After the audience has "ooohed" or chuckled, just move on to the next slide. It’s possible to get through an entire presentation at a library conference like this. I know. I’ve seen them.
3) Don’t say much. This comes easily for a lot of library conference speakers because they don’t have much to say in the first place. After years of viewing presentations by librarians, I can say with some authority that they almost never have more than 5 minutes of worthwhile material. The rest of the time in the presentation is the crap factor, figured by dividing the time by 5. Thus, a half hour presentation has a crap factor of 6. You, too, almost certainly have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the library conversation, but that absolutely will not hinder your library speaking career. On the contrary, the most popular library speakers often have the biggest crap factor.
4) If you have to say anything, it’s best to have a few vapid "inspirational" sayings. "Tell your story!" "Be kind, rewind!" "Love your cats!" That sort of thing. Librarians lap this up like a cat laps milk. Whatever you do, don’t use a sentence of over 4 words, and why use 4 when 3 would be better. Also, make all the sentences imperatives, because given your weighty moral and intellectual authority, you’re in a great position to be commanding people to do things your way, or at least a certain class of people, namely the class of people too dumb to avoid your talk.
5) If you want to be really daring, you can superimpose the vapid sayings over the cutesy pictures. Doing so will achieve the apex of library presentations and is almost guaranteed to make you a sought-after speaker at library conferences and other fun professional gatherings.
6) Remember that any librarians gullible enough to come hear you speak are even dumber than you are. Thus, you have almost nothing to lose. Anyone smarter than you won’t come to the presentation at all, or will walk out in the first five minutes to express their disappointment that your pictures weren’t pretty enough. Dumb people are easily led, which explains the success of many popular librarian speakers.
And there you have it, the secret of library presentation success. It could probably be condensed even more. Lots of pictures, not many words or thoughts, and never underestimate the stupidity of your audience. Keep that in mind, grasshopper, and you will go far.
Now the naysayers can stop claiming I never give any positive advice for the profession.