Event review: Perfect Information Conference 2013 (take 2)

Marie Grace Cannon, SLA Europe ECCA 2012 winner, was sponsored by Perfect Information to attend their 10th conference at the Aviator Hotel in Hampshire, and shares how she benefited from the Perfect Information Conference.

Along with Ruth Jenkins, I was very kindly sponsored to attend the Perfect Information Conference 2013, which was one of the best, and certainly the most unique, conferences I have attended.

Aviator Hotel staircase

Aviator Hotel staircase

Compared to previous conferences I have attended such as the SLA and BIALL annual conferences, the Perfect Information Conference is a lot more intimate, with approximately 90 delegates from primarily the legal and financial sectors. The majority of the delegates (possibly all) stayed at the Aviator Hotel, where the conference was hosted, and this meant there were numerous and constant networking opportunities. I found myself meeting people in the formal networking sessions, then constantly bumping in to the same people at breakfast and lunch and throughout the day. This meant that you had the opportunity to really get to know fellow delegates and develop meaningful relationships.

I also found that many of the delegates were very experienced professionals in senior roles, such as information managers, directors or heads of service; and so I found the networking to be particularly beneficial to me as a new professional. All of the delegates I met were very knowledgeable experts at what they do, and so I learnt about their roles and how their library services differed from my own, but importantly I was often able to find out about their extensive and varied career paths and gain advice for my own career.

What was particularly emphasised to me, both through networking and through the sessions themselves, was how we are all facing the same problems and challenges, regardless of what kind of library and information service we offer and what kind of users we have. This was demonstrated in the opening session where Allan Foster presented the highlights from the Business Information Review survey 2013, describing how we all facing key pressures of staff reduction, cost control, managerial scepticism of the services we provide and changed user demands. Allan has very kindly agreed to contribute a post to the SLA Europe blog on the 2013 survey, so watch this space!

In a previous post, Ruth did an excellent job at summarising the conference sessions, so I am just going to highlight what I took away personally from some of the sessions.

PIC 2013 Name tagAs a new professional, Malcolm Bryant’s session on Navigating Your Career really emphasised to me that I need to find some time and seriously consider what I would like to achieve in the next 3-5 years, and how I can go about filling my skill gaps to get to my next goal. I have been qualified for less than a year, and to be honest I haven’t really thought far beyond passing my Masters and securing a job! It can be very easy to simply continue in your current position unless some external factor comes along and triggers a change, and I think for all of us it is very easy to make the excuse that we are too busy to think about our own professional development. But this session has persuaded me that I can’t just say that I will “do it later” without meaning it; that I really do need to make the time and seriously consider what I would like to do next in order to get the most out of my current job and my career.

When I first saw the conference programme, I was overjoyed to see that there was a session on public speaking by Linda Cockburn called The Art of Engagement, as shortly after the PI Conference I was to present a session alongside Sam Wiggins at the BIALL Conference. I have always seen public speaking as a weakness of mine, and I genuinely thought it would be something I could never do well as I didn’t have a natural gift for it. This year I have learned that this is not true, and that any skill can be acquired with effort and lots of practice. But here are some key points as a novice public speaker that I found very useful from this session:

  • Tell a story and bring it to life – this will engage the audience and make you more memorable. For my presentation I spoke about how I wanted to be a professional Irish dancer before becoming a librarian!
  • Remember, you are only nervous only because you care about what you are speaking on. Don’t fight your nerves, accept them.
  • Speak at half the speed you think you should – I didn’t use any notes for my presentation except a single A4 that said “slow down and smile” in capital letters!

With these tips, and after a lot of in-house training and practice, I’m sure you will be pleased to hear that my presentation at the BIALL conference went very well.

I immensely enjoyed the whole Perfect Information Conference experience; from the constant networking opportunities to the sessions themselves, and I can honestly say that the quality of the sessions were truly outstanding. I was able to report a wealth of knowledge back to my team, particularly on mobile strategies and federated searching. But as you can see from above, I also gained much on a personal level. I would just like to thank Perfect Information for hosting such an excellent conference and for giving me the opportunity to attend.