Getting it wrong so you can get it right(er)
Last week I had the huge privilege of giving a keynote talk at the Cambridge Libraries 2017 conference. Not only were there some great speakers present, both external and internal, but I’ve worked in various roles at a number of Cambridge libraries and attended many a CamLibs conference in my day: so to be asked to keynote at one was enormously exciting, gratifying, and above all TERRIFYING.
As it turned out, it was one of the best days of my life. Being given a platform to talk about issues that mean a great deal to you – in this case the importance of failure in learning, research, and teaching – and to be received with empathy, recognition, thanks and hugs, is one of the most amazing things there can be. I don’t know how to express my gratitude that it’s happened to me.
I’m always fascinated by how people use scripts, prompts and other aids to speaking. I don’t usually use much in the way of notes, relying on my slides to keep my argument on track (yes, this can sometimes go a bit wrong!). This time I didn’t want to wander too far off-piste, especially as my slot was 90 minutes long and I had visions of my audience petrifying with boredom, so I scripted the talk much more tightly than usual. Of course I added a bunch of revisions at the last minute all the same … so for fun or in case anyone is interested, here’s the version I spoke from, with all its scribbles and alterations, to complement the neat and tidy transcript that will appear on the CamLibs site in due course.
The talk is a wild melee of random things that go round in my head a lot, but there are many important anchor points that come from other people’s thinking. Most of these are attributed in the script, but there are three that aren’t and deserve to be:
“the Ow factor” was a phrase used by Hazel Rothera in talking (very postively!) about her experience of the peer review process
“you never get to be a good teacher” (because it’s an ongoing balance) was said by Michelle Bond
And I’d either forgotten or never knew that the wonderfully comforting “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly” – which I suddenly remembered mid-flow and managed to include – was written by G K Chesterton.