…aka The One Where I Co-Led A Workshop On Networking…
In the radical cheese dream that my professional life has been since July 2017 (Start a podcast! Release 25 episodes! Engage with listeners worldwide! Get invited to speak at stuff! Bother @CILIPInfo on a daily basis!), speaking at Careers Day last week was definitely a highlight.
As a result of all my podcasting, online professional engagement, CILIP-bothering (and my – frankly shameless – pleas to ‘Let me come and do stuff at your events because I’m doing FCLIP and unable to go to anything unless I can attend them free please please please pleaaaaaaaaase) I have good relationships with a number of their staff (in my role as mad lady in hat who they very sweetly indulge) and Helen Berry asked if I’d like to do something for Careers Day.
I kicked around a few different ideas but the one I kept coming back to was networking. Feeling awkward at conferences is such a recurring theme on Librarians with Lives that it’s almost become a meme. For those that play LwL Bingo, it’s up there with (get your jotter pens ready) ‘Fabulous’ ‘Bursaries’ ‘Does my head in’ ‘Own your achievements’ ‘The young people’ and ‘I shouldn’t offer advice but…’.
Back in November I recorded two episodes of the podcast very close to one another: Mike Jones one evening and Nick Poole the following day. Mike and I had been chatting on Twitter for a bit since he’d been to ILI and found the bits between the talks hard and I’d *shamelessly* plugged LwL on the conference hashtag (as I said, no shame) and it was a topic we explored at length during his episode. I was able to relate as I’d had my own experience of the horrors of having to talk to strangers at the CILIP Conference in July. Networking was a subject I raised with Nick during his episode and so the idea for ‘Hungry hippos and hot chocolate’ was born.
I didn’t think it was right for me to do something on networking on my own so it make sense to approach Mike and ask him to co-lead it with me. Luckily he jumped at the chance (turns out he’s a Yes Man fan) and so we put together a workshop. We were determined that what we delivered would be relatable and practical, rather than theoretical. Mike did a survey on networking and the findings became the backbone of our presentation. From there we developed a toolkit of tips and advice that (while admittedly Twitter-heavy at the moment) could be adopted by anyone that struggles with social situations at professional events.
One of the huge benefits of co-leading a workshop is that you have someone else to bounce ideas off. It also meant we could play to our strengths and divvy up tasks – I wrote the slides and Mike made them look fantastic. When I questioned whether I should include certain bits of information he could offer a balanced view. Mike also added in information that I’d overlooked. Hands-on activities were a large component of the workshop and I spent a couple of evenings putting together a special LwL-themed version of Guess Who for participants to play with. I raided my children’s board games and selected those that could be played without too much thought and wouldn’t impede conversation. I also took along a jigsaw puzzle and a large colouring-in poster with plenty of pens and colouring pencils.
During the preparation stage it didn’t really occur to us/me that the first time we would ever meet in real life would be at Careers Day itself. Thanks to the podcast and the Joy of Twitter, it didn’t feel like an issue though. We delivered the workshop twice and were really pleased with how it went, once we got over the ‘People have actually come to this and are engaging with it and we can’t believe we’re here because of a couple of blog posts and a podcast’ feeling.
So, what went well and what would we improve next time?
What went well:
- The presentation was really well-received, with lots of nodding along and laughing (hopefully with not at…) when we told our stories and offered advice
- Participants engaged with the practical element of the workshop and seemed to be enjoying themselves
- We got lots of really good, useful feedback, both online and in person from participants
- We’ve been asked to deliver the workshop again at the New Professionals’ Day later in the year
Even better if…
- We took slightly too long with the slides the first time which didn’t leave enough time for game play, which we were able to remedy in the second workshop (so successfully that we finished early..)
- Ideally we’d have longer to let the conversations flow during the interactive element
- Originally we said that we wanted participants to find out three facts about the person they were conversing with, but that took too long so we cut it back to 1-2 facts for the second session
- The second session was really well-attended and there weren’t quite enough activities for everyone to do, so we’d either limit numbers slightly or include more activities next time
Overall, Mike and I were absolutely thrilled with how the workshops went. My biggest fear was that our advice might appear patronising and homespun, but the survey results underpinned everything we said and we were very honest about our own experiences, which really resonated with participants. As I said at one point, it would be hard to argue with anything we said.
I’ll write a separate post on Careers Day from a participant perspective at some stage. Huge thanks to Mike for being such a brilliant co-leader and to Helen from CILIP for inviting us along. I think a (friendly, helpful) beast has been unleashed!