Libraries, the universe and everything

A tale of two webinars
June 2, 2014, 19:26
Filed under: CPD | Tags: , , , ,

Before May 2014 I had never taken part in a webinar, but by the end of that month I had listened to two. I’m not quite sure what suddenly made me pay attention to this type of training, as I know I’ve missed plenty of excellent opportunities of this kind in the past, but whatever my subconscious process may have been I’m delighted I went along with it.

The webinars were both organised by various sections of SLA, with details as follows: Tools of Influence for Special and Solo librarians, presented by Pat Wagner on May 13th; and The art and science of negotiating and managing contracts by Bill Noorlander and Carol Ginsburg on May 21st. I’m writing this from a train and don’t have my notes with me, so what follows is a brief round-up of the points which have stuck with me.

Pat shared her three-fold model for becoming an influencer – rapport, information, action. What this basically means is that in order to have any chance of becoming somebody who people want to assist you need to take time to get to know them, share information with them and only then offer any kind of call to action. She also stressed the importance of the Platinum Rule: do unto others as they would like to be done to. All this needs to be done without any expectation of payback. Influential people tend to be those who are flexible and generous, well-connected and ready to assist others in whatever way they can. Clearly this takes time to achieve, but striving to become this sort of person seems to me to be more than worthwhile, particularly for those of us in roles which rely on support from colleagues in other departments or organisations who have no specific reasons for being supportive.

On a rather different subject, Bill and Carol gave a brief but extremely practical overview of the way in which one might approach a contract negotiation (a very condensed version of a full-day training course which they do). Their advice included putting in plenty of groundwork to establish how indispensible your company finds a particular product, what its competitors are and what colleagues in other organisations think of it. Clear timetables for the negotiation and sign-off process need to be established early on, and shared with both the vendor and other relevant internal stakeholders (eg. procurement or legal). You should be very aware of where you can compromise, and where you might look to negotiate harder (eg. if they won’t drop the overall cost perhaps you can secure extra licenses). Being nice and getting to know your vendor contact are also advised, and whatever agreement you aim to end up with should be both realistic and at least moderately acceptable to all parties. Notes of decisions and copies of the contract and all revisions should be kept on fine and consulted before the next time, and do also make a note of anything which you didn’t get through as you might be luckier when the contract is up for renewal. Also, never ever sign up for auto-renewal.

I found both webinars to be extremely engaging, well presented and structured effectively. Working on my influencing skills is of much more immediate practical relevance to me, but I was very glad to have heard Bill’s and Carol’s contract insights and I’m quite sure I’ll be able to apply that knowledge too (possibly even as soon as the rent on my apartment comes up for renewal!).

Of course both of these sessions would have been equally effective if delivered face-to-face, and in fact I do find it harder to concentrate on this sort of thing when it’s just me sitting in front of a computer. That said, if they hadn’t been webinars I wouldn’t have been able to participate in either (in fact I caught up with the recording of Pat’s session a couple of weeks late as I was on holiday when it was presented). They are clearly an excellent way of bringing together presenters and attendees from a huge geographical area, and even across timezones (something which being in America has taught me to appreciate more acutely!), and I will now be looking out for other webinar training with much more zeal than in the past.

(Next time, though, I will make sure I print out a copy of the slides &/or handout in advance, as that will make note-taking so much easier – I definitely appreciated the opportunity to pause the recording of Pat’s session and catch up on my notes from time to time. Thankfully Bill and Carol alternated between sections, and the handovers provided some extra seconds for scribbling!)

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