Coming out of the Shell: Becoming a Powerful Public Speaker

By Dana Skwirut

Have you ever done something you wanted to share with others but could never work up the courage to attempt to speak about it? Do you have a lot of interesting ideas that colleagues encourage you to present at conferences, but you always just seem "too busy" to write the proposal in time? Speaking in public can be daunting for even the most seasoned speakers, let alone someone who has no experience with it. How does one overcome pre-speaking jitters? What is the best way to keep an audience engaged? Are visual aids helpful or a large distraction?

The answers to these questions and more can be found by attending NMRT's ALA 2014 Pre-Conference Coming out of the Shell: Becoming a Powerful Public Speaker on Friday, June 27th, 2014 at 9AM. This three-hour session will be packed with tips and tricks to make even the most soft-spoken person a powerful public speaker. Not only will experts with plenty of experience give their best advice, but attendees will be able to try these public speaking tips at a built-in workshop session. This interactive session will feature three librarians with years of public speaking experience: Tiffini Travis, Manuel Urrizola, and Char Booth. Though space for the program has already filled up, these experts have offered their favorite bits of public speaking advice to help novice speakers improve their skills.

Tiffini Travis is the Advisor for Information literacy and library instructional assessment at California State University, Long Beach, where she focuses on campus-wide information literacy initiatives as well as ways in which the success of these initiatives can be measured. She has spoken at numerous conferences for over ten years about her research interests, which include information literacy in the workplace, using social media for library outreach, and mobile library site usability. Her article "Librarians as Agents of Change: Working with Curriculum Committees using Change Agency Theory" was selected as one of the TOP 20 Instructional Articles of 2008 by Library Instruction Round Table (LIRT). More recently, Ms. Travis has researched elements of pop culture and co-authored a book called Skinheads: A Guide to an American Subculture (Greenwood 2012). Her favorite piece of public speaking advice she has received is to start a speech with a personal story. "My favorite story," she says, "is telling students how I was so intimidated by the library at my university that after attending a library research session, I never stepped foot inside the library again!"

Manuel Urrizola is the Head of Metadata & Technical Services for University Libraries at the University of California, Riverside. He has given dozens of presentations, speeches, and instruction sessions in the past three years alone, and he is often requested to teach public speaking workshops at schools, universities, public libraries, professional conferences, and community organizations. He has won many public speaking awards with Toastmasters, an organization dedicated to helping people develop and improve their public speaking skills. The best public speaking advice Mr. Urrizola received was to know his audience and utilize tips such as fine tuning the speech to the audience, speaking directly to the audience, and arriving early to meet some people in the audience.

Char Booth is the Head of Instruction Services and E-Learning Librarian at the Claremont Colleges Library and is on the faculty of the ACRL Information Literacy Immersion Institute. She spends her time researching the integration of pedagogy, research, technology, and design in libraries. Her ACRL 2013 presentation with Lia Friedman, Adrienne Lai, and Alice Whiteside, "Love your library": Building Goodwill from the Inside Out and the Outside, won the ACRL 2013 People's Choice Award. Her publications include the Ilene F. Rockman Instruction Publication of the Year Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literacy for Library Educators (ALA Editions, 2011) and Informing Innovation: Tracking Student Interest in Emerging Library Technologies (ACRL, 2009). The best advice on public speaking she has ever received was a piece of anonymous feedback after a presentation that said "bigger is better, less is more."

These librarians have years of experience that will leave even a veteran speaker walking away having learned something new. Attendees will have an opportunity to practice their public speaking during the session, but practice should not end there! Everyone with something to say deserves to be heard without it feeling impossible, and incorporating these tips into your public speaking habits will let your voice be heard!

Dana Skwirut is a children's librarian in New Jersey. You can find her on the internet at