It’s that time of year when the board sends out a general appeal for our members to share their expertise and present at our conference. It is overlooked by many, perhaps no more than by those new to the profession. When I first started in the field, I remember thinking that I’d never know enough to possibly present, certainly not while I’m new. How very wrong I was. My mentor encouraged me to present with her, and it was not nearly as intimidating as my fear led me to believe. Your experiences, however brief, are just as valuable as those who have been in this field for decades. Don’t be afraid to share what you know and have learned with the group.
Your first professional presentation will undoubtedly be approached with a healthy dose of fear. Before you take those brave first steps up to the podium, you’ll probably start where I did, asking yourself, “What on earth do I even talk about? What could I possibly have to offer when I’ve been doing this for less than a year?” Spoiler, you can talk about anything! We have plenty of prospect development professionals that are new to our field attend our conferences. You can help them along by sharing your experiences. And for those of us who have been doing this awhile, sometimes you think of better ways of doing things that we would love to learn about. It’s also a nice reminder for us what challenges face new researchers.
Case studies are a great way to break into presenting. They are probably the easiest route to go because it’s just telling everyone how you went about solving a problem. It could be that the problem is a common one, but your approach was one you hadn’t read about. Or it could be a weird problem you searched for answers for but ultimately had to come up with a creative solution on your own. The problems you’re solving can be as broad (you didn’t have a system in place for tracking research requests) or specific (you had to provide capacity information on an author and had to research how royalties work) as you like – just as long as you have a story to tell about how you fixed it.
The buddy system is also a great way to present for the first time. My first presentation was with my mentor, and it made a huge difference having someone I knew up there with me. Did you develop a new approach to working one-on-one with gift officers? Bring one of them along! Did you and a fellow researcher work together to solve a problem? You both can talk about it! Maybe you and your supervisor worked on a big project together – you can tag team and each talk about the parts you worked on.
If you’ve managed to make it this far and you’re not new to the field, congratulations. We still need you. Many members of our chapter have years of experience and have never shared with us by presenting. It’s never too late to start sharing all the wealth of knowledge you’ve developed. Hopefully, some of the above information has triggered something in you and have you’ve had a lightbulb moment about a great idea on what to present. If I haven’t managed to convince how easy it can be to present, I hope at the very least we get to see you at our conference on March 21-22 in St. Louis.