Up close and Personal with Saxton Speakers

I was fortunate to be invited to attend the Up Close and Personal Sessions presented by Saxton Speakers Bureau at this year’s AIME conference in Melbourne. This is the second year I have gone along to these excellent sessions.


The first session I attended was called “The future…what’s happening and how will it change our world?” It was moderated by financial journalist Alan Kohler and the speakers on this panel were Matthew Michalewicz, Clare Payne, and Dr Hugh Bradlow. They discussed Artificial Intelligence, self-driving cars and how these will impact our lives in the very near future.

Reminded by the gorgeous display installation at AIME of the NGV during the lunch break I hopped up to see the Triennial exhibition. I loved walking through the experiential artworks that were so unique and varied from one another. My favourites were: Xu Zhen’s monumental installation Eternity-Buddha in Nirvana…, 2016–17 that combines replicas of famous Buddhist and Western classical sculptures; the work by Buenos Aires–based artist and designer Alexandra Kehayoglou who uses hand-tufted wool rugs to draw into focus landscapes under threat; and the swirling immersive digital installation of TeamLab. Ron Mueck’s work call Mass which was a room of over-sized human skulls was quite awesome to stand amongst and a very popular installation.IMG_9437

The second session “Resilience and acceptance…two powerful life-changing tools” was moderated by broadcaster Richard Morecroft. The speakers were Nasir Sobhani, Sam Bloom, and Jules Allen. This tear-jerking discussion pulled at the heart strings with stories about how ordinary people face extraordinary challenges and they shared the lessons that we can all apply to our personal and working lives. The strong message that came from this talk is that rather than learning ‘resilience’ we would do better to live with the attitude that every individual matters.

The AIME exhibition itself is well organised and utilised current technologies well with a real effort towards digital processes to save on printed paper brochures. There was a remote assistance ‘person’ available on several screens to answer any questions. It was a bit disconcerting when I asked the ‘person’ where the theatre was located.


One particular installation held my interest as I watched a man wearing Virtual Reality glasses build an abstract 3D replica of Melbourne using a VR drawing tool. Apparently there are only two of these technical experts in Australia at present. His representation of Melbourne’s details was displayed on a screen and you could see his work as it evolved. As an ex Industrial Designer I envied this technology that was not around when I was active in this field, and I could see the many applications for this tool.


Six months of library events

I have been assessing and indexing my blog lately and I realised I had not posted anything for the first six months of this year; and so I looked at my work record and found I was just a little bit busy with organising events at the library.


Here is the incomplete list:

  1. Craig Smith – Wednesday 25 January – Summer Reading Club Finale
  2. Thomas Hugh – Sunday 29 January – Live Music Sunday
  3. Fiona Wood – Saturday 31 January – Author Talk – Cloudwish
  4. Cam Lee-Brown – Sunday 12 February – Live Music Sunday
  5. Kenny Chan & Tom Taylor – Saturday 18 February – Heroes & Villains
  6. Meryl Leppard– Sunday 26 February – Live Music Sunday
  7. Sheree Marris – Wednesday 15 March – Author Talk – Aquatic Science
  8. Nicky Johnston – Saturday 18 March – Book Launch – The Fix-It Man
  9. Shane Maloney – Saturday 8 April – Author Talk – crime fiction
  10. Matthew Fagan – Sunday 9 April – Live Music Sunday
  11. Australian Ballet – Monday 10 April – Dancing story – School Holiday Program
  12. Lego with Young Engineers – Thursday 13 April – School Holiday program
  13. Andrew Rule – Saturday 22 April – Author Talk – Journalism
  14. Adi Sappir – Sunday 23 April – Live Music Sunday
  15. Ruth Clare – Wednesday 26 April – Author Talk – Enemy
  16. Amadou Kalissa – Sunday 7 May – Live Music Sunday
  17. Jade O’Donahoo – Monday 8 May – Author Talk – Eat This My Friend
  18. My Emma with Lise Rodgers – Tuesday 9 May – Jane Austen Performance
  19. Wendy Mak – Saturday 20 May – Author Talk – The Capsule Wardrobe
  20. Mojo Pearls – Sunday 21 May – Live Music Sunday
  21. Alice Pung – Tuesday 23 May – Author Talk – Unpolished Gem
  22. Sydney Writers Festival – 26 May – 28 May – Live & Local live-streamed
  23. Dr Michael Carr Gregg – Saturday 3 June – Author Talk – The Princess Bitchface Syndrome
  24. Sean Dooley – Saturday 17 June – Author Talk – birds
  25. Clementine Ford – Saturday 1 July – Author Talk – Fight Like a Girl

Co-Creating Experiences of The Book

Or … event planning at public libraries.

The Cause

Participatory learning is not a new concept, but becoming widely adopted as a valid way to engage with communities. Public libraries have used this approach in recent years to highlight their value and to support literacy development in our diverse local populations.

Libraries have great books and so much more, but there is a prevalent need to let people know this. One great method is to extend the power of the book by inviting authors to come along to provide further explanation, context, ideas, and personal story. This enriches the experience of the book for the library users and hopefully actively supports the IFLA credos about intellectual freedom, inclusion, fostering creative and critical thinking.


Kylie Ladd and Liane Moriarty at Frankston Library 2015 (photo by me)

The Sponsor

The sponsor is the governing organisation that provides the required funds to deliver these events, with a mandate towards social inclusion, public wellbeing, and community participation. The process can be upheld through regular checks and balances,  reporting, and goodwill and integrity.

The Organiser

In this description, that would be me, and I have a process, a small team, venues, a budget, and no shortage of ideas. I am naturally organised and with project planning experience from my Industrial Design background, I love a good project plan. The main tool for my process is a spread-sheet in a multitude of variations. I can be juggling anywhere from 5 to 15 events and promotions simultaneously, all at varying stages in the process. I love a good Gantt chart but have simplified to a simple timeline. I prepare a communication plan for my team and other essential documents such as a media release.

The Speaker

Booked Out Agency serves as a perfect partner as a provider of authors as speakers. What a wonderful and empowering mechanism for authors to be able to extend their work! They are my first resource when I am planning to fill my events calendar.

Having found a speaker and agreed to the time, fees, etc. it is up to the speaker to engage with the audience.

Authors who are not well-known or just launching their first book can try to jump onto the speakers route through public libraries. This does require a bit of self-promotion and leg-work by the author to make the connection and pitch their worth to the library events organiser (me). Fees for speaking will be much less depending on what is expected and agreed. Sometimes free use of space in exchange for the speaking event can be a viable way for an unknown author to get into this field.

Once ‘on stage’ it is entirely up to the speaker/author to engage the audience. Not every speaker fully realises this opportunity provided to them. It is a special and unique platform to have the spotlight, to speak their truths, to say their piece. Some waste it. Some don’t inspire. Some are self-indulgent. Some are just inexperienced. Some can write eloquently but not be able to speak to an audience well at all. It is a performance to some degree. Expert speakers can talk underwater – for hours. Great speakers inspire, are humble, and authentic. Some just have one great idea that can hold an audience spellbound for an hour. 

The Audience

People have to feel inspired into action to come along to a hear a speaker. Sometimes popularity or notoriety is all it takes to fill a space with eager attendees. They come with expectations, wanting to get ‘something’ from their investment of time and/or ticket price.

It is a serendipitous outcome. My attitude is based on the idea that whoever is in the room was meant to be there. Any particular mix of people will shape the event into the unique experience that it is. Any messages shared by the speaker or the attendees are expressed for all to hear and learn from.

The Results

This past year I have been successful in attracting people into the library who are not our regulars, or even library users. Does this translate into new memberships and more loans? Probably not. That is part of the aim but not in an overt or pushy manner. The hope is they will see the benefits and come back soon.

The results are dynamic, unique and engaging. Hopefully it reflects the objective: that we engage with the people in our community to inspire learning, support literacy development, encourage freedom of thought with the ability to think critically. We hope to instil this love of libraries into everyone of us.

Other Explanations

While researching the topic to see what others say about this ‘occupation’, I came across two descriptions that I particularly like: