Each year the traineeship at Oxford ends with a Showcase where all of the trainees have the opportunity to speak about their experience as a trainee at their library. This can be about a particular project they have been involved in or more generally about what they have learnt and enjoyed about the year.
This year I organised the Showcase along with Emily Delahaye from the Sainsbury Library. I must admit to having been a little nervous when I heard I would be expected to present in front of an audience as I’m sure were many of my peers. This is why when an email was circulated asking for volunteers to organise the event I decided to get involved. Not only would it be a good chance to gain experience of organising an event (which is something I had never done before), but I figured that by being involved in the planning stages I would feel more confident on the day. I am pleased to say that I think my theory worked. I still felt a bit nervous when I stepped up to present, but I came away from the day feeling really proud of myself and I know that when I need to present in front of a large group again in the future, it will seem less intimidating.
I could talk for much longer about my experience of presenting, but I really want to talk to you about my experience of organising the Trainee Showcase. Knowing where to begin when we first started organising the event was quite daunting. We were lucky, however, to have the assistance of Tamsyn from the Staff Development department who explained how the Showcase has worked in previous years and helped us get a sense of the different tasks we would be responsible for organising.
Once we had a general impression about what the Showcase entailed, we started out by agreeing upon a few key things:
– What we needed to do
– Who would do what
– When things needed to be completed
Making these decisions straight away made the rest of the process run very smoothly. By dividing up responsibilities we were able to share the workload so that the Showcase didn’t take too much time away from our normal jobs. We also made sure to start things off as early as possible so that we wouldn’t be rushing to get everything ready at the last minute. This also had the added bonus that if something unexpected happened (such as Emily or I became ill) we would still have time to get everything ready.
What did I do?
- Contacting Trainees
We started off by emailing all of the trainees to give them a basic idea of what the Showcase would be like. Once we had given everyone a chance to think about what they would like to present about, we then contacted the trainees again to ask them for the following information:
– Whether they would be able to attend the Showcase
– What they planned to present about
– A short biography of themselves
– Any dietary requirements for the buffet lunch
The main reason we needed this information was to help us produce a programme of the day that could be sent out to everyone we planned to invite. Knowing how many trainees would be speaking would help us divide up the day evenly and we wanted to add as much detail as possible about each trainee and what they would be speaking about to help our invitees decide which part of the day to come along for if they were unable to attend the entire event.
I created a spreadsheet to record attendance and dietary information and I saved each trainees biographies and presentation information in a folder. This made the information easily accessible when it was needed.
- Sending Invitations
When we had received everything we needed from the trainees we could start creating the programme to be sent out with our invitations. It was quite easy to put the programme together, but it was more difficult to decide on timings. There were a few keys parts of the day that couldn’t be too massively altered such as lunchtime (no one wants lunch at 11.15am), but we were also restricted by the start time as well as the number of trainees we had presenting. After some work, we managed to timetable the day quite well.
Next was to send out invitations. The trainees’ Supervisors were all invited as well as everyone who had spoken to us or trained us over the year. Due the fantastic and varied training programme offered as part of the Oxford traineeship this was a very large list of people! As with receiving details from the trainees, we needed a central location to record responses. To make this easier, I asked all those invited to contact me and I created a spreadsheet to record who would be attending and whether they had any dietary requirements.
- Organising Catering
We decided to offer a buffet lunch which would allow everyone in attendance to get a chance to circulate and chat with each other. We were conscious that this could be a good opportunity to people to ask questions and share feedback about the presentations we had seen so far.
Using the spreadsheets I created for recording attendance made organising the catering very straightforward. I could easily calculate how many people would require lunch as well as pass on dietary information.
This information had to be passed on to the caterers at least a week before the event which was made easy by the fact that we had contacted the trainees and sent out invitations quite a long time in advance.
Obviously the main skill needed for running the Showcase was organisation. Emily and I spent time at the start planning what exactly needed to be done and we were able to reach our objectives through good time management.
Looking back at the organisation Emily and I did for the Showcase has made me realise that it was not just all about planning, but communication was also actually a big element. We needed to be able to communicate with each other so that we didn’t become confused or disorganised. We also needed to communicate with our fellow trainees, with those who were invited to the Showcase and with many other people. In these instances, we always tried our best to be friendly and approachable as well as to make our messages clear and informative so that everyone knew what was happening.
Another common theme was being able to record information accurately and efficiently. It would have been a real challenge to plan the timings of presentations or know how many chairs to place out in the room if we hadn’t recorded people’s replies clearly.
How do I think it went?
I really enjoyed organising the Trainee Showcase because it taught me a lot about how to plan an event and it has shown me that I am very good at managing my time and strategizing. I also thoroughly enjoyed getting to work closely with Emily which wouldn’t have been possible otherwise because we work in different libraries.
The day itself was a little nerve-wracking, but thanks to the positive audience and our careful preparation before the day, everything ran smoothly and I can even say I enjoyed myself! The trainees all did a fantastic job at presenting. Everyone had clearly taken time to plan a professional presentation and it was a pleasure to discover how varied each of our experiences and projects have been.
Overall, I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to organise the Trainee Showcase. It has taught a lot about event management as well as about my own strengths and weaknesses. If you are ever offered the chance to challenge yourself, as I was in this case, I highly recommend you take it…
Anja Badock, Graduate Trainee, Bodleian Social Science Library