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You can keynote!

You can keynote!

Delivered as a LITA webinar in November 2019.


Dorothea Salo

November 20, 2019


  1. You! Can! Keynote! Dorothea Salo UW-Madison Information School yes, you!

  2. Yes, you can! • I’ve done a dozen or so

    keynotes, plus however many plenaries and invited sessions. • I am not: • Beautiful • Popular • Young • Brilliant • Library NiceTM • An amazing success, or often a success at all • Perfect. In any way. • If I can do it, you can.
  3. I am, however: • The demographic norm for my profession:

    white, middle-aged, cishet female. I know it matters. • That’s actually one reason I’ve been cutting back on speaking work. It’s time for new and different voices! Like yours! • Honestly, I’m also aging, tired, worried about the environmental load of flying, and busy with other things (hi, upcoming accreditation cycle!). You know, life happens and all. • Plus, we all know That Speaker who has been coasting on a single talk or idea for years… and I never want to be that.
  4. What is a keynote FOR? Clayton Christensen, “job someone or

    something is hired to do”
  5. Buzz! Photo: Andrew Malone, “Bees” CC-BY https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewmalone/14021997265/ especially in advance;

    conferences gotta attract people IDEAL ‘19, Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw, as soon as I heard I was all I GOTTA GO TO THIS! and then I couldn’t because of a schedule conflict, but wow, I really wanted to go, and Dr. Crenshaw as keynoter really was a major reason for that.
  6. get some ENERGY going! Photo: Marcu Ioachim, “example” CC0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/ioachimphotos/43317737611/

    get people talking (“what did you think of the keynote?” is a common icebreaker), be memorable (for conference word-of-mouth)
  7. #FOMO! (fear of missing out) Photo: US Army CCDC, “Students

    discover technology opportunities” CC-BY https://www.flickr.com/photos/usarmyccdc/4425275978/ Now that every conference has a hashtag, another thing conferences often hope for is that their keynoter gives good Twitter. Quotable, easy enough to follow for somebody to livetweet, slides that look good in a phone pic, that kind of thing. Again, it’s good word-of-mouth for the conference. Maybe the people following the hashtag or the livetweeter actually up and go to the conference next year.
  8. Advance the conference agenda Photo: Damian Gadal, “Agenda” CC-BY https://www.flickr.com/photos/23024164@N06/14757611123/

    not “agenda” in a bad way, just what the conference committee wants to draw people’s attention to or focus in on if there’s a conference theme, well, that’s part of the conference committee’s agenda!
  9. To find out what the conference wants, ask: “What made

    you think of me?” this is fine, it won’t make you sound self-centered or anything, and it gets a useful conversation with the conference committee started the clearer everybody can be about what everybody wants out of this keynote, the easier it is for everybody’s expectations to get met!
  10. Five kinds of keynoter: which one(s) are you? the five

    types are not mutually exclusive, as we’ll see the point here is that many different people and many different approaches to keynoting can all work just fine
  11. 1. The Name: Dr. Roxane Gay Photo: Eva Blue, “Roxane

    Gay in conversation with Rachel Zellars - Montreal - 02” CC-BY, cropped, https://www.flickr.com/photos/evablue/22215916810 chosen for buzz, wow factor; often a big-conference thing but if it’s a very specific, focused conference, like Timberline Acquisitions Institute for example, you might be The Name in that field
  12. 2. The Knowledgeable: Dr. Safiya U. Noble Photo: via Wikimedia

    Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Re_publica_18_-_Day_1_(41809675342).jpg if a conference’s intellectual agenda includes search-engine bias or big data bias, of course Dr. Noble is on the short list of potential keynoters! how could she not be? this type of keynoter will often be chosen when the conference committee is clear that “we want somebody to talk about” some specific thing
  13. 3. The Entertainer: Michael Peter Edson Photo: Rudolf H. Boettcher,

    “Michael Peter Edson” CC-BY-SA https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMichael_Peter_Edson_by_1rhb.jpg (photo redacted due to license conflict) I mean, look at this guy, right? You can tell just from the body language that he’s going to hold people’s attention. this type of keynoter is often chosen because they’re quote-unquote “a good speaker” or “passionate” or “a great storyteller” often their word of mouth from other conferences is good Now, I don’t mean by this that Entertainers are empty song-and-dance. If you know Edson at all, you know that he’s challenged the status quo in museums pretty loudly and directly. People who openly challenge, people who are provocative or who spark controversy — I consider them Entertainers as well! What you’ll hear about people like this is often “oh yeah, they’ll make you think.”
  14. 4. The Pep Talker: Jamene Brooks-Kiefer Photo: via JBK’s GitHub

    https://avatars0.githubusercontent.com/u/23423968?s=460&v=4 this is the keynoter who inspires useful action and builds community. can be the choice of a community that has gone through some turmoil and doesn’t want to relive that or the choice when a community is feeling attacked or undervalued or just all at sea about how to move forward from wherever they’re at So, since the very first Midwest Data Librarian Symposium, it’s been tradition for Jamene Brooks-Kiefer to give the closing remarks, because Jamene is soooooo good at distilling an entire conference into a few minutes of pithy remarks, and offering practical, workable guidance for what to do with what we’ve learned. Just… I have so much respect for that. That is a SKILL.
  15. 5. The Breath of Fresh Air: Valencia Gunder Photo: via

    Miami Girls, https://miamigirls.org/miamigirls/valencia-gunder/ The Breath of Fresh Air is a keynoter who comes in from outside the conference’s usual community. Valencia Gunder, for example, keynoted the twenty- eighteen Research Data Access and Preservation conference. Gunder is not a librarian, much less a research-data librarian. She works and consults for nonprofits in the southern United States that serve homeless people and people of color, targeting issues such as carceral violence and gentrification. Her connection to the conference, which she used to full effect in her keynote, was collecting and leveraging data to gain support for her communities of concern. It worked out fabulously. this type of keynoter is often chosen for “we need a new perspective to shake things up” if this is you, and it has been me, it sometimes makes sense to ACKNOWLEDGE IT EXPLICITLY to avoid coming across as the clueless outsider who is nevertheless going to parachute in and tell the conference community exactly what to do; that is never a good look.
  16. The Knowledgeable Dr. Carla Hayden Photo: via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Re_publica_18_-_Day_1_(41809675342).jpg

    The Pep Talker The Name Again, these are not mutually exclusive categories! I haven’t been lucky enough to hear Dr. Carla Hayden of the Library of Congress speak, but just from what others who have say about her, it’s completely obvious that she is The Name, The Knowledgeable, and sometimes The Pep Talker as well. I myself tend to be sometimes The Knowledgeable, sometimes The Entertainer—the in-your-face provocateur variant, I know this about myself—and as I said, once or twice I’ve even gotten to be the Breath of Fresh Air.
  17. Five kinds of keynoter: which one(s) are you? The point

    is, you don’t HAVE to be The Name, you don’t HAVE to be The Entertainer—there are other keynote niches that may fit you better. I think it’s also a good idea, if you haven’t already, to get on a conference-planning committee or two. You will learn SO MUCH about how keynoters are chosen, and what’s attractive in a potential keynoter.
  18. To find out what the conference wants, ask: “What made

    you think of me?” listen for what kind of keynoter the conference committee thinks you are
  19. Becoming Known

  20. Publish. • Not necessarily A Book, though that won’t hurt!

    • It’s more “make your thoughts and manner of expressing them known.” • You can do that on LinkedIn or Facebook (ugh) or Twitter. Or with a blog. Or in journals (for reach, you should prefer open access journals). • Expect this to be slow. It can take years! • But people are more likely to take a chance on a new speaker if they can find out how that person thinks and communicates.
  21. Speak! • Do non-keynote speaking. It’s good practice. • Nervous?

    Start with small-scale and/or local events. Stakes are lower, so you can take more and bigger risks. • Panels are also a good way to get practice (especially in thinking on the fly, for Q&A). • Advocacy speaking counts! Speaking outside professional contexts counts! Teaching counts! Improv counts! Presenting to workplace colleagues counts! everything counts—and it helps to be conscious of that, to ask yourself “what exactly am I going to try to practice this time?”
  22. Make friends. • Don’t let this be the only reason,

    of course. You want to be a giver as well as an asker! • But you can tell professional friends that you’re looking for speaking opportunities. It’s allowed! • Speakers sometimes have to turn talks down. Often we’ll suggest other names. Maybe yours! • (Just don’t make your ask an expectation. No one owes anyone a keynote opportunity, okay?)
  23. Have a website that tells people you speak. • Who

    are you? What do you care about? • What have you already done? (CV, links to video or slidedecks… whatever works for you) • What kind of speaker are you? (I invented the taxonomy I gave you, so I don’t recommend using it explicitly… but you can still give hints.) • Stipulations and needs you have, e.g. • Accommodations • Fees and reimbursement • Existence of a Code of Conduct for the event
  24. How to Do a Keynote

  25. How to Do a Keynote Nah. I can tell you

    how I do a keynote, but that’s not necessarily the way you will, because I am not you! And that’s fine. As I keep saying, you don’t have to be me to do this.
  26. Forget “the rules.” • There’s a ton of talk-construction and

    talk- delivery advice out there, much of it presenting itself as the One True Way To Speak. • I do not believe in any One True Way. I do lots of things that are Against the Rules. • Do what works for you. How do you figure this out? By creating and delivering talks! I don’t practice talks, in the mirror or otherwise. Never have. I don’t necessarily recommend this — some of my early talks were HEINOUSLY overwritten — but I am saying, it ain’t obligatory and some folks can do good talks without it. I do write out whole scripts (you can see on my Speakerdeck) and I do read them aloud (with embellishments). The key is that I know how I talk and I write like I talk. You can SOUND spontaneous without actually talking spontaneously! I also do gimmicky stuff. It’s part of my The Entertainer schtick. You can too if it works for you, but you don’t have to if it doesn’t! If something feels awkward to you, it probably comes across that way to your audience.
  27. Make peace with screwups. • Talk-length screwups. Tech screwups. Delivery

    screwups. Slide-transition screwups. Misreading- the-audience screwups. Way worse screwups. • (You probably shouldn’t do keynotes if you expect to be universally loved and admired for it. I’m just saying, this is unlikely.) • They will happen. Make your peace in advance… because you must not let a screwup stop a talk cold! • I have screwed up talks in nearly every way it is even possible to screw up a talk, and I AM STILL HERE and still giving talks. • Try not to screw up the same way more than once.
  28. Use the mic. Every time. No excuses! Photo: Incase, “microphone,”

    CC-BY https://www.flickr.com/photos/goincase/5036393063/ when considering clothing, consider where a lavaliere mic’s power pack can be clipped on — back of neck will often work, though it’s not super- comfortable.
  29. Do not go over time. It’s RUDE! Photo: Pat Pilon,

    “Frank, October 17, 2011 - timer,” CC-BY https://www.flickr.com/photos/pat00139/6256370658/ One thing I do, especially because I don’t practice talks in advance, is have an optional slide or two near the end of a talk. If I’ve got time, I’ll use an optional slide. If I’m crowding the time limit, I bypass it. It works for me, might for you too. How do I judge talk length as I’m composing? Honestly, by this time I do it by feel. My backbrain nudges me when I’ve written enough, and gets quite loud when I’m crowding the limits and should really take out a few slides. That’s… maybe not helpful? I’m sorry. Practice is probably a better way! But however you do it, it’s better to end early than late. Nobody minds a few extra minutes of Q&A or a longer coffee break.
  30. Structure. Story. Throughline. Rhythm. • Something that ties the talk

    together, signals transitions, all that good stuff. • You don't have to announce talk structure at the beginning. Instead, you use it to make visual and/or auditory structural cues. • You don’t need to have a structure in mind in advance of working on the talk, though you can. • Doesn’t have to be the same structure every time! re having a structure in advance: sometimes for me talk structure is an emergent property of brainstorming, or whatever I decide to say re same every time: I’ve done the classic “three-act talks with call to action at the end” and I’ve done totally different talks too
  31. Strong visuals • Don’t use this deck as a model,

    please! I was crunched for time. This is… pretty bad. • Nobody loves bullet points except shaky speakers. • (I know, I know! I was rushed, okay?) • No clip art (unless you’re all-in on it as a gimmick). Use The Noun Project instead. • Tie the talk together visually: common layout(s), fonts, colors… • Use Creative Commons wisely and well. • Watch contrast between text (if you use it) and background. Accessibility issue!
  32. More that helps • Make friends with Presenter Mode in

    your slide software. This is what it’s there for! • Vulnerability is extraordinarily powerful. Scary, but powerful! • Humor… IF you’re good at it AND you can use it responsibly and with care. • Irresponsible humor is one of the few speaking mistakes that can destroy a speaking career outright. • Poking fun at yourself is usually okay. (See above about vulnerability!)
  33. Things to avoid • Clichés and stereotypes about your audience.

    • We’re all so very tired of shushers and My Childhood Librarian stories, right? • So why would we do that to anyone else? • Reading-a-journal-article-aloud delivery. Folks came to hear a fellow human being, not a piece of paper. • -isms and microaggressions, of course. • No shame in needing a beta reader (all my love to mine!). • Keynoters are in a position of power. We must use our power to lift others up. It’s part of the job that the entire profession is hiring us for. Re delivery: I really mean it when I say you don’t have to be The Entertainer, but you DO have to do better than THIS. When I’ve seen people disappointed by a conference keynote—not angry, not upset, just disappointed—this is often why.
  34. More things to avoid • Too-direct challenges to the audience.

    These can feel like insults. • If you are an Entertainer-Provocateur, as I am, this is a tightrope for you. (I… have fallen off a couple of times!) • Compose your talk in front of a picture of an audience? • Empty blather, empty platitudes • Hi, The Pep Talker! This is your tightrope. • Telling people to bell the cat • Hi, The Breath of Fresh Air! This is your tightrope. • Giving the same talk over and over • Hi, The Knowledgeable! This is your tightrope. Telling people to bell the cat: I have only walked out of a keynote once, and it was for this. It’s just amazingly thoughtless and insulting. Re same talk again and again: word DOES get around, and you may limit your future opportunities. The Name can get away with this, and The Knowledgeable may be able to if their expertise is on something that’s constantly changing, but even for them it’s not a certainty.
  35. Nerves? • This is another case of “do what works

    for you.” Lots of advice out there. • Me, I want a bagel and a coffee with milk and sugar. I don’t normally drink coffee, so it's sort of a pre-talk ritual for me. • You might not want this exact ritual, but having a ritual is calming. • Your audience is on your side. They WANT you to be great! Feel the love. It’s there. • Nervous energy is energy. Energy is fuel! • Being The Entertainer is actually exhausting for me. Nervous energy is how I manage it. • If I can do it, you can do it. • I am the introvertiest introvert who ever introverted. • But put me behind a podium and I can rock the house!
  36. My talk trail… • Born to the Purple Squirrel: Ten

    Years of Talks. purplesquirrel.dsalo.info • Mildly-edited talk scripts • Introductions give context, explain my screwups, may have something useful or comforting for you • speakerdeck.com/dsalo • Has class slidedecks (visually boring, lots of bullet points!) mixed with talk slidedecks+scripts • slideshare.net/cavlec • Older talks. You can see how my style changed over time.
  37. Can I help? • If I can, I’d like to.

    • I’ll answer questions, beta-read, help brainstorm, pep talk, whatever’s useful. • dorothea@dsalo.info
  38. My thanks to: • Laura Carscaddon • Galen Charlton •

    Galadriel Chilton • Scarlet Galvan • Abigail Goben • John Mark Ockerbloom • Christina Pikas • Sarah Shreeves • Jill Sodt • Amy Tureen • The rest of the LSW Mokum crew • Everyone who’s taken a chance on me Thank you!