Things I learned about presenting from Next Food Network Star

As a longtime watcher of the Food Network, namely Good Eats (and anything else Alton Brown is in), I became particularly fond of The Next Food Network Star.

Contestants not only have to prove their food, but also have the ability to market themselves, their POV, and the network. I got to thinkin’: isn’t this what we do when we’re teaching information literacy or presenting at library conferences?

A well-known and unfortunate fact is many LIS, MLS, MSLS, MLIS (alphabet soup librarians) come fresh out of library school with zero training in instruction and are expected to teach classes. I remember my first conference presentation – a panel in 2009. I was so nervous, I don’t remember anything I said. I felt terrible about it. But, that wasn’t my only horrific moment presenting in front of people. Recall Freshman year, 2005: I passed out before 80-ish students in my speech class and woke up in the infirmary. Horrifying.

But, I’ve come a long way, and somehow (almost magically), I feel comfortable speaking in front of people when I’m teaching or speaking at a conference. I think it’s mostly because I honed in on the idea that because I am probably more knowledgable about this subject than my audience, I have “authority.”

Then, one night, while watching the Next Food Network Star, Alton, Giada, & Bobby were giving some good advice, reinforcing some of things I’ve taught myself, and adding some new and valuable tips.

Alton is always sexy
Alton is always sexy
  • If you’re nervous – be aware of what your body is doing. DO NOT come off as ‘sexy’ – Anyone watching the show knows that when Damaris gets nervous, she gets a little sexy. Lesson learned: know what your body is doing and work with it. I know that when I’m nervous, I laugh awkwardly, get red, and move my feet a lot, so I work with my awkwardness to get laughs and change what could be distracting.
Uhh, so what's your POV?
Uhh, so what’s your POV?
  • Know your POV – What is your POV as a librarian, for this class, for this presentation? Know where you stand on issues and project that point of view. If you’re a Wikipedia-on-the-side type of librarian? Work with it.
  • Don’t sound scripted: that’s F**king boring – Food network star finalist, Stacey has a problem with being too scripted – we’ve all made this mistake right? The last few years, I’ve stopped writing outlines and what I’m going to say, because I want to be genuine, and I want my students to know that I can work on the fly and handle hard questions. Research isn’t scripted, so why should we pretend that it is?
  • If you’re dual presenting, work with your guest or co-presenter – How many of you have been to a conference where 2 people are co-presenting and each one talks for 15 minutes and then fumbles through Q&A? What if we worked together and had a conversation with the audience and each other? We would project genuine concern for the subject AND our POV at the same time. Oh, and it wouldn’t sound scripted 🙂
Happy bein' herself.
Happy bein’ herself.
  • Be yourself – Seems simple enough, right? Wrong. I will be the first to admit that when I’m teaching, I become the person I wish I was all the time. What I mean is, when I’m teaching, there is electricity, a rush. Be genuine, but also be your unique self, with all the quirks.
  • Remember: You’re the STAR

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