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Someone trying to contract with me to give a keynote in a very cool country (*fingers crossed*) today asked me how many talks/classes/keynotes I’ve given in my career.  I realized I had no idea.  I went back and counted.

I’ve spoken at 207 various events since I started in mid-2002.  That’s an average of 20 or so a year.  And given that the first few years were very slow, you can see how that works out to a lot more than that in the last few years (and indeed my past presentations list demonstrates just that).

People ask me how I do the speaking and the writing and hold down a full time job. I just shrug and make that weird “I don’t know” sound that includes no actual words (sorta like “uh-ah-uh”).  I really don’t know.  I just do it.  I love what I do–and when you’re passionate about something it feels a lot less like work.


After reading that count, I feel rather old.  And rather busy.  I would be off to grab a cocktail as consolation for both if I didn’t have a nighttime City Council meeting to attend………Which I love attending– hello City Council 🙂

The advice I’d share with newbies on the speaker circuit? Pace yourself for ceiling cat’s sake.  You won’t go out of style.  Only take what you can realistically accommodate without sacrificing your sleep, your personal life, or your job.  I’m taking a lot fewer gigs, especially traveling ones, nowadays largely in an attempt to reinvigorate my personal life (here’s hoping) and to have more mental space to devote to being a new director.  So if you’re out there speaking…just be real with yourself, your loved ones, and your employer.  You’ll find a balance as long as you’re consciously thinking about it.  We can’t all be Stephen Abram and fly from place to place being super smart all the time 😉

“all your time are belong to us: speaking and teaching over the last decade”

  1. Derek Says:

    Being The Man obviously agrees with you. Two, count ’em, two smileys in one short entry. Nice to see. :p

  2. Sarah Houghton (LiB) Says:

    Damnation! Who put those there? What is happening to me?!? Emo-mopey-goth powers : activate! *fizzle* *sputter* Activate,I say! *crickets* Aww, hell.

  3. JC Brown Says:

    I had the opportunity and honor to see you present at the Rural Libraries Conference at the Grand Traverse Bay Resort. Two thumbs up. I’d love to hear you again.

  4. Sarah Says:

    Ah, JC, so you got to hear me answer my all-time favorite non-topical question from the audience: “Where did you buy your fabulous shoes?” 😛 [Answer: Pleasures of the Heart in San Rafael] You guys were a fun group!

  5. Amanda Says:

    That’s a lot of events! It would be awesome to document those in a visual way. How did you get your first speaking gig on the library circuit? I noticed you did a lot of state conferences in the beginning and I’ve always thought that the state level is an awesome place to start; I’ve considered doing something for the OLC here in Ohio.

    I personally cannot wait to see you at the LITA forum in October. I’ve not been to an ALA or division event yet and my employer all but handed me the money to go as soon as I mentioned it for professional development. Are you just coming for the speech or are you attending the entire forum?

  6. Sarah Says:

    I did start speaking at state conferences. Panels at first, then solo presentations. I think that’s a good way to get your feet wet if you’re new to the field or new to speaking…if you’re only responsible for 1/3 of the presentation, that’s a lot less stress. I think starting with smaller audiences, e.g. at state or specialized conferences, is a good idea. Start with groups you know, too. I remember in the early days I would ask a friend or two to sit in the room just so I’d have a friendly face to look at. Now if I actually know people in the room, I get more self-conscious–I don’t know when that shift happened.

    I will look forward to seeing you at LITA. I haven’t decided yet if it will be a zip in and out just for the talk, or if I’ll stick around. Depends on what’s going on with work at the moment, I have a feeling…

  7. Amanda Says:

    Sarah: Thanks for awesome advice! I definitely want to start getting involved at a state level. I also look forward to seeing you at LITA. That will be an event that I’m hoping will give me a lot to think about and bring back to my employer.

  8. Catherine Voutier Says:

    Hi Sarah! I certainly found your keynote at InformationOnline 2010 inspiring. I’m doing more speaking now and I’ve grown to enjoy it. I’ve now been asked to present at a health conference in Sydney and I’m in two minds about it because I’ve heard the organisers will charge ginormous registration fees and so the audience will be limited. So, there is that aspect to presenting too. It is fantastic to be asked, but will the audience be to who you want to transmit ideas and information? Will it be useful for you professionally?

  9. Online Diploma Says:

    great information and inspiration, Also like to admire the time and effort you put into your blog.nice written. I would like to see more posts like this.thanks

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